Photo by: Henoc Kivuye
Oklahoma Christian University’s graduating seniors – guard Brandon Troutman and forwards Will Reinke and Devan White – were determined not to lose their last collegiate home game as they took the court against the University of Texas-Permian Basin Falcons March 2.
The Falcons were the first team that Oklahoma Christian faced when they began Heartland Conference play last December; the Eagles lost 63-50.
NCCAA regional tournament standings were still very close heading into Saturday’s game against the Falcons. A loss by Oklahoma Christian at home, and a win by Southern Nazarene University would drop the Eagles from the second seed to the third seed in the tournament.
Another strong and efficient performance by Reinke led the Eagles to a 70-53 victory. The game played closer than the final score indicates. Texas-Permian Basin came within five points with just under eight minutes left in the game.
Oklahoma Christian tightened up their defense for the last eight minutes, allowing the Falcons to only score one more field goal the rest of the game. Reinke led the defensive effort, tying his career high in blocks with six.
The Falcons only shot 34 percent from the field, compared to 50 percent for the Eagles. Texas-Permian Basin shot over 41 percent from behind the arc, while Oklahoma Christian only shot 25 percent and was 0-6 in the second half.
At the half, the Eagles held the lead 33-29, and a 10-2 run coming out of halftime increased the lead 43-31. Then Oklahoma Christian hit a dry spell, going almost five minutes without scoring a field goal. The Falcons used this time to mount a comeback, closing the gap to just two points, 43-41.
Texas-Permian Basin senior forward Rob Heyer was called for a technical foul, motivating the Eagles to spark their offense. Troutman hit the two technical free throws, starting an 8-2 run.
In the final minutes of the game, White capped off his final performance at the Eagles Nest by throwing down an alley-oop dunk assisted by fellow senior Reinke. Troutman, Reinke and White all left the game to a standing ovation from the crowd, a tribute to their hard work put in over the past four years.
Sophomore Nick Tate also scored in double figures for the Eagles, putting in 18 points while grabbing eight rebounds. Sophomore Willie Harper scored double figures as well, posting 10 points. Junior point guard Kendre Talley filled up the stat sheet, scoring seven points, dishing out seven assists and recording four steals.
Although the Eagles’ games did not count for Heartland Conference standings this season, Oklahoma Christian finished 9-7 in conference play, which would have put them fourth in this year’s standings.
The Eagles now head to the NCCAA regional tournament in Bartlesville, Okla. Eight teams qualified for the Central Regional tournament, with Oklahoma Christian facing off against Central Christian College.
Former Sooner Athletic Conference rival Southern Nazarene qualified for the tournament, and the two teams could meet in the second round on Friday. Mid-America Christian University also qualified for the tournament.
The likely No. 1 seed of the regional tournament will be Heartland Conference foe McMurry University. Oklahoma Christian has defeated the other three top regional teams.
If the Eagles win out and and take the regional Championship on Saturday afternoon, they will then travel to Winona Lake, Ind. where the National Championship is held.