Clarksville, Ark.-With a little bit of help and a strong finish, the U of O Eagles qualified for the American Southwest Conference postseason tournament.
By Larry Isch, Director of Public Relations The Eagles won their final four regular-season conference games and got some help on Saturday when both Austin College and University of Dallas lost. That combination helped the Eagles earned their second trip in as many years to the ASC Tournament where they play against McMurry University (21-3, 17-1) in Clinton, Mississippi on February 23 at 8 p.m. The Lady Eagles were guaranteed a spot in the playoffs two weeks ago after defeating University of Dallas and will also play February 23 at 8 p.m. against Hardin Simmons (19-5, 15-3) in Abilene, Texas. By winning six out of their last eight conference games, the Eagles earned second place in the Eastern Division. The Eagles had to win all four of their final games while the University of Dallas had to lose their last four games. The Eagles defeated East Texas Baptist University, 91-90, on Thursday after freshman Brent Johnson hit a free throw with 3 seconds left to play. The Eagles then whipped LeTourneua University 102-77 two days later to clinch a birth. "Our kids have been really focused the last few ball games," said Eagles head coach Johnny Johnson. "They have played hard the final two weeks of the season. Everything fell into place for us to make the tournament, but we still had to continue to win big games. This team has displayed a lot of character." This marks the seventh time in 11 seasons that Coach Johnson has led his team to postseason play at Ozarks. McMurry is currently ranked 18th in the nation and owns a NCAA Division III best 20-game winning streak. McMurry, the number one seed from the Western Division, knocked the Eagles out of last year’s ASC tournament on their home floor. "McMurry is one of the top Division III schools in the country," said Johnson. "We will definitely have to play our best to compete with them. They have solid players at each position and have been successful in past post season play." The Lady Eagles fought their way into the playoffs in a much different manner than the Eagles. The Lady Eagles secured a spot on February 8, but according to head coach Jack Jones his squad must be more focused than they have been their previous two games. "We just didn’t play well our last two road games," said Jones. "We will need to play much better against Hardin-Simmons. They are ranked 11th in the nation. East Texas Baptist and LeTourneau both beat them and those are teams we beat. So, that gives us a lot of hope going into the game on Friday." Hardin Simmons, the number one seed out of the Western Division, is the top scoring team in the ASC, averaging 78 points per game. Ozarks is ranked 4th in the ASC in scoring at 73 points per outing. "They are a very good transition team," he said. "They will press most of the game so our guards will need to play well. We are going to push the ball up the floor with them and I’m relying on the depth of this team to match up with them. It’s going to be an interesting game." The Lady Eagles are 15-8 overall and 12-6 in the conference, while the Eagles are 17-7 overall and 12-6 in the conference.