TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — The Emporia State men know now that they have their postseason destiny in their own hands.
A win on Saturday would assure them of advancing to the MIAA’s postseason tournament, while a loss would still allow for the possibility, but would leave factors beyond their control.
That was made possible with an 83-76 victory on Thursday night at Northeastern State.
“Across the board, everyone on the team stepped up and made shots,” ESU head coach Craig Doty said. “Obviously Malik (Hluchoweckyj) made a ton of plays down the stretch for us, but there was a huge three made by Sawyer Glick, a huge three made by Duncan Fort, a huge three made by Hassan Thomas ... these plays allowed us to take control of the game down the stretch.”
Emporia State had a lead of as many as eight in the first half, but NSU got its final three shots to fall, cutting its deficit to just 32-31 at halftime. Thomas’ 3-pointer came early in the second half to hand the Hornets a brief 41-40 lead. The RiverHawks soon followed with consecutive treys from Trent Cantrell to take a 5-point advantage, but ESU got a game-tying 3-pointer from Fort at the 11:51 mark. Glick’s came with 4:46 left to play, stretching the Hornet lead from two to three possessions.
“Our seniors really played with a massive sense of urgency tonight on both ends of the floor,” Doty said. “It’s something we’ve really been pushing for with this group as they feel each other out. Tonight I’m just so proud of all our guys, but specifically our seniors who stepped up knowing we had to win the game and we did.”
The senior with the most obvious mark was Hluchoweckyj who tallied a career-best 24 points on an also career high-mark of five 3-pointers. His final line read 8-for-12 from the floor, 3-for-4 from the free throw line, six rebounds, two assists, a block and a steal.
“He was so good,” Doty said of his senior guard. “And (with) Kam Rowan out ... Malik had to play big minutes and he took full advantage of that opportunity and we’re very proud of him.”
Fellow senior Julius Jackson also regained his shooting prowess, scoring 22 points on a 5-for-9 night from the floor, adding 11 points from the stripe.
As a team, ESU shot 53 percent from the floor, it’s second-highest mark of the year in conference play.
“Both offense and defense ... I think we saw a team that was very efficient on both sides of the basketball,” Doty said. “That allowed us to take control of a road MIAA game and ultimately get the win.”
Now it comes down to the regular season finale and a ‘win and you’re in’ mentality.
“This allowed us to ... stay in the driver’s seat,” Doty said. “We don’t need help from anybody else. If we win Saturday, we’re in.”
ESU will face off with Central Oklahoma at 3:30 p.m. Saturday in Edmond.
ESU 32 51 — 83
NSU 31 45 — 76
Emporia State (12-15, 7-11): Hluchoweckyj 8-12 3-4 24, K. Glick 7-13 0-0 14, S. Glick 3-8 2-4 9, Thomas 2-6 2-3 7, McGee 1-1 2-2 4, Jackson 5-9 11-13 22, Fort 1-2 0-0 3, Hodge 0-0 0-0 0, Shell 0-0 0-0 0.
Northeastern State (14-14, 8-11): Cantrell 7-13 2-2 20, George 6-14 4-6 17, Smith 6-17 1-2 17, Ihek 2-2 2-3 6, Mouse 0-9 0-0 0, Bowers 2-2 2-3 6, Bodrick 2-4 2-2 6, Givens 1-2 2-2 4, Wieseman 0-1 0-0 0.
Three-pointers- ESU (9-24): Hluchoweckyj 5-8, K. Glick 0-4, S. Glick 1-5, Thomas 1-3, Jackson 1-2, Fort 1-2; NSU (9-32): Cantrell 4-10, George 1-4, Smith 4-10, Mouse 0-7, Bodrick 0-1.
Rebounds- ESU 34 (McGee 8), NSU 35 (George 7); Assists- ESU 10 (K. Glick 3) , NSU 14 (George 7).
Fouled Out- ESU: None, NSU: George.