No. 6 SEU falls to No. 7 Oklahoma Christian in Heartland Conference Tournament Semifinal

Brandon Paz

The odds seemed against SEU as a cross-court inbound heave from Lopez went out of bounds, initially leaving less than one second to play. In SEU’s favor, an OCU player touched the ball out of bounds and upon further review, not only would the ball be in SEU’s hands to finish the game, but they would have 1.7 seconds to make the play of their careers.

Freshman guard Ryan Garza’s inbound pass made its way to sophomore forward Dorian Lopez, making his way off a screen to the basket for a game-winning layup. With time winding down, the layup went up and the buzzer went off, with the ball ultimately falling on the outside of the rim.

In a semifinal of the Heartland Conference Men’s Basketball Tournament, No. 6 seed St. Edward’s fell to No. 7 seed Oklahoma Christian 93-94 in a thrilling overtime game on Saturday in Tulsa, Okla.

Although Lopez missed the final layup, it was one of, if not the only, cloud on an otherwise bright performance. In what was his 11th double-double of the season, he managed 29 points with 11 rebounds on 18 shots, managing to go 4-for-5 from beyond the arc. After an 11-point deficit at the half, Lopez’s effort throughout his 43 minutes of action were part of the reason why SEU was able to keep pace with OCU.

“A lot of people will focus on that play and the last 1.7 seconds. If we don’t have him on Saturday night, we don’t even have a chance,” Coach Cook said of Lopez’s performance. “…unfortunately people will focus on that last play, but he played a great game.”

Along with Lopez, All-Heartland Conference First Team junior guard Landon Goesling contributed his talents by leading both teams with 35 points, going to the line 10 times, not missing a single free throw. With his efforts in the 30th and final game of the season for SEU, Goesling managed to make this game the 29th in which he scored in double-digit figures, further proving his scoring prowess.

Meanwhile, senior guard Sean Watkins played his final game in an SEU uniform. In a well-rounded performance, Watkins posted 13 points, six rebounds and four assists while only managing a single turnover in his 44 minutes of play. The overtime game was a familiar situation for Watkins, who was one of three current players who was on the 2015-2016 team that also went into overtime in a semifinal game against Arkansas – Fort Smith.

The semifinal exit is anything but a defeat for SEU to look back upon with regret. They clawed back from the halftime deficit to keep the game close, putting the team’s will on full display.

The team is set for the future, specifically the near future. Freshman guard Ryan Garza showed promise throughout the course of the season while playing behind Watkins, while key contributors such as Goesling and Lopez, along with forward James Taylor, will return for a chance at redeeming this season’s heartbreaking exit.