Eastern ends season with loss to Salt Lake in National Tournament


Eastern’s Rod Lewis drives to the basket in a 82-86 loss to the Salt Lake Community College Bruins in the NJCAA National Tournament.

By EOSC freshman Jamie Fink

WILBURTON, OK (March 19, 2013) – For the second year in a row, Coach Scott Edgar had his Eastern Oklahoma State College men’s basketball team in the NJCAA National Tournament. The Mountaineers entered the tournament seeded No. 22 after posting a 19-15 record and winning back-to-back Region 2 Championships.

Eastern was matched up with the Salt Lake Community College Bruins at noon on Tuesday for the first round of the NJCAA National Tournament. The Bruins were ranked No. 5 in the nation with a 28-4 record.

The Mountaineers won the tip at the beginning of the game, but were unable to score on their first possession of the contest. Salt Lake got the first points of the game from sophomore shooting-guard Skyler Halford. While it only took two possessions for the Mountaineers to get started, the Wilburton team found itself down for the most of the ballgame.

When Salt Lake needed a basket in the first half, all they needed to do was put the ball in the hands of  Halford, who scored the first four points for his team. Eastern tied the game at four on a DeVaughn Purcell two-point shot, but the ballgame was a battle down inside as both teams fought for position and rebounds.

Turnovers plagued both teams, but caused less harm for the Bruins as the Mountaineers did not capitalize on them. The Mountaineers offense struggled at times, but their defense helped keep them in the game. The Mountaineers never lost focus, as they battled to keep themselves within a manageable reach. Rod Lewis got his first three-pointer of the ballgame for the Mountaineers at the 10:11 mark of the first half.

An up-tempo team, Eastern’s pace kept them in the game early, cutting the lead to as little as seven in the first half. But the Bruins went into halftime with a 45-36 lead.

The Mountaineers came out to play in the second half as they tried to get as many possessions as possible by playing a good uptight defense. While the ballgame was a back and forth contest it seemed as if Salt Lake just could not miss from inside.

After a 5-0 run by the Mountaineers, Eastern was in the ballgame. Lewis took over the game for the Mountaineers, going 3-for-6 from the free throw line, 2-for-3 from the field and drawing two fouls on the Bruins. Lewis kept the Mountaineers in the game in the last minute, but calls within the last 30 seconds did not go the Mountaineers way. The Mountaineers lost 82-86.

“I’m very thankful that we made it this far," Edgar said. “At this point in the season, teams don’t lose. Just one team moves on and one team goes home - but you don’t lose. Time just ran out on us today. I felt like if we would have had two more minutes the game would have been ours.”

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