The biggest college basketball game in southeast Oklahoma featured an overtime rally by the Savage Storm in a 74-73 home win over East Central University on Thursday.
And in a fitting send-off, two of the three senior starters collected double-doubles in their last games at Bloomer Sullivan Arena.
Steven Kohli (23 points, 16 rebounds) and Chris Roussell (21 points, 12 rebounds) led the Southeastern effort before nearly 2,000 fans at “the Pit,” which included several student groups and a large contingent of white-clad “Storm Troopers” in a student “Storm Shelter” section.
“Our crowd got us into it, and helped us rally and get a W,” Kohli said. “This is a big motivation for these next games.”
Southeastern (15-10 and 11-8 in the Great American Conference) will finish the regular season this Saturday on the road against the Harding Bison (19-8 and 12-7 in GAC). The game could decide the conference champion and will have huge implications for next week’s post-season tournament seeding.
After the impressive, heart-felt win in their final home game, Savage Storm Coach Kelly Green was inclined to brag on the players and the supportive crowd.
“We had a very boisterous crowd, and it makes a difference,” Green said. “This rivalry is big, and hey, it’s big for our seniors. Steven, Chris and James (Harris) played their hearts out. These guys have great character, and I’m so fortunate to be around this bunch.”
The Storm were quite fortunate to pick up the win, as well. Trailing by a dozen points in a miserable first half, Southeastern changed their game plan and attacked the basket more aggressively, getting to the free throw line 22 times in the second half and 10 times in overtime.
“We got our big guys in foul trouble. We had to go small, and it may have been a blessing,” Green said. “We got to the free throw line because we were in more of a four-out situation.”
Southeastern had trouble digging into ECU’s double-digit lead until Kohli and Harris banged in three-pointers to make it a seven point game midway through the second half. The rally continued as Andris Misters hit from the deep corner and Andis Malahovskis came up with a pair of huge steals allowing Quinton Threadgill to lay in a go-ahead basket late in the game.
The Savage Storm had a four-point lead when ECU’s Braxton Reeves hit a three with 25 seconds left. Threadgill found Harris all alone and way out front on the in-bounds pass for a 63-60 lead. Reeves would hit another from downtown in the closing seconds to force extra time.
Southeastern went 9-for-10 from the charity stripe in the extra set. Misters laid in an “assist” from Harris with 16 seconds left for a 73-70 lead. The Tigers hit two from behind the arc to make it interesting in the final minute.