Clarksville, Ark.-The Eagles gained a 88-79 overtime victory over East Texas Baptist University in American Southwest Conference action on Saturday.
With the win, the Eagles (12-13, 10-12) will play Hardin-Simmons University (16-6, 18-7) on Friday, February 25, at 8:00 p.m. in the ASC Championship tournament hosted by Mississippi College in Clinton, Mississippi. The Cowboys, who defeated the Eagles 70-66 in their only meeting of the year on January 8 in Clarksville, finished the season as Tri-ASC West Champions. Ozarks goes into the tournament as the East’s number three seed while Hardin-Simmons will be the second seed from the West. It is the second time in the past four years the Eagles have made the playoffs. Ozarks never led in regulation against ETBU, but managed to tie the score with 18 seconds left on a Brent Johnson layup to send the game into overtime. With momentum in their favor, the Eagles scored nine points in the overtime period while holding the Tigers scoreless. "The guys were very persistent in the game," said head coach Matt O’Connor. "We cut into the lead in the last five minutes of the first half and I thought that was important because it showed we still had a little bite in us. In the second half we seemed to play harder the deeper we went into the game. Our intensity improved, too. It’s very rare to see a team that led never in regulation win the game. That was a first for me and it was a testament to our players of how they continued to play hard." ETBU held a 42-31 advantage at halftime, but Ozarks slowly climbed back into the game after facing a 16-point deficit with under 16 minutes to play. The Eagles got within four points when David Hamilton made a layup with 5:26 remaining. Hamilton’s three-pointer with 1:56 left cut it to 76-73. ETBU’s Chris Isom later made 1-of-2 free throws to give the Tigers just a two-point cushion with 32 seconds remaining. Ozarks then converted on their last possession when Hamilton found Johnson streaking to the basket for a layup. In overtime, Johnson’ three-pointer gave Ozarks their first lead of the game and began a run in which the Eagles outscored the Tigers 9-0. Habeeb Kareem led the team with a career-high 29 points. Johnson followed with 18 points. Josh Joyner added 15 points and a team-best 13 rebounds. Chris Clark contributed 11 points. Brad Johnson had 10 assists in the contest, giving him 247 career assists, which places him in ninth place in school history. "Habeeb has really been a bright spot the last month," said O’Connor. "He’s very poised for a freshman. This game is a shot in the arm for our confidence. But Hardin-Simmons will present a challenge. They play smart and are a real solid basketball team." Tournament Schedule- Friday, February 25 Game 1: McMurry vs. Texas-Dallas @ 12:00 Game 2: East Texas Baptist versus Sul Ross State @ 2:00 Game 3: Mississippi College versus Mary Hardin-Baylor @ 6:00 Game 4: Hardin-Simmons versus Ozarks @ 8:00 Saturday, February 26 Game 5: Winner Game 1 versus Winner Game 2 @ 2:00 Game 6: Winner Game 3 versus Winner Game 4 @ 4:00 Sunday, February 27 (Championship Game) Game 7: Winner Game 5 vs. Winner Game 6 @ 2:00