Midwestern State came from behind to defeat Northeastern State 74-64 in the semi-final round of the Lone Star Conference Championship tournament in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. This sets the table for the Mustangs to face Tarleton State in the final round on Saturday.
Northeastern didn’t waste any time getting things started when Antoine Branch hit a 3 pointer 30 seconds into the game, but MSU’s Chris Hagan immediately answered with a 3 pointer of his own. The tone was set for most of the first half as the teams traded the lead back and forth, until the RiverHawks took control.
A missed jumper and a foul by MSU’s Rashad Austin seemed to spark a 16-6 run by Northeastern, with Branch scoring 8 and getting a defensive rebound during the stretch. With just over 4 minutes left in the period NSU held the first double digit lead of the game, 34-24.
As the first period drew to a close, the Mustangs once again found what head coach Grant McCasland would later call “the will to win basketball games”. LSC South Defensive Player of the Year Jason Ebie showed he could play offense too, hitting two 3 pointers in 32 seconds and closing the half with an assist on Anthony Moore’s fastbreak lay up. Adding a 3 pointer by Adrian Van Buren made the score 38-32 in favor of Northeastern State at the half.
The RiverHawks opened the second period in control, with Branch, Marlon Burnett, and Jason Jones leading the way. NSU stretched their lead to 14 at one point, but the Mustangs again came storming back. With 11:32 to play MSU went on a 10-0 run to tie the score at 51 as Hagan scored 7 and Charlie Logan scored 3 and added a defensive rebound and a steal.
Northeastern would regain the lead and go up 59-53 on another 3 pointer by Gaines with 4:31 to play. Bringing to mind the saying “It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish”, the Mustangs dominated the last 3 and a half minutes of the game, outscoring NSU 18-3.
Ebie finished with a career high 22 points and Moore, with another huge second half, finished the game with a double-double, scoring 15 points with 11 rebounds. Dominique Gaines, Northeastern’s top scoring threat, was held to 10 points before fouling out.
Midwestern faces Tarleton State in the tournament final Saturday night with tip off scheduled for 7pm. A win would give the Mustangs their second consecutive LSC championship.