Bronchos Make History

Bronchos Make History

Senior guard Marqueese Grayson, No. 10, drives to the lane against Emporia State defender Brian Morton, No. 0, at Hamilton Field House on Feb. 24. Grayson scored all 16 points of his points in the second half of UCO’s 76-73 win over Emporia State University. (Gerald Leong/The Vista)

In the last game of the year, the University of Central Oklahoma men’s basketball team secured a first round bye in the conference tournament as they beat Emporia State University 76-73 on Saturday at Hamilton Field House.

“It just kind of gives you, really, just the confidence that you’re right in the mix with the top four teams in the league,” UCO Head Coach Tom Hankins said.

This is the first time the Bronchos have had a first round bye in the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association conference tournament, a league they joined in the 2012-13 season. The Bronchos play their first game of the tournament on Friday in Kansas City. UCO plays the winner of Missouri Western and Central Missouri.

In regular season play, the Bronchos lost to Central Missouri 74-64 on Feb. 1 and beat Missouri Western 65-61 on Nov. 30.

For the Bronchos to secure a first round bye, Central Missouri had to lose to Pittsburg State and UCO had to win Saturday’s game. Central Missouri ended up losing to Pittsburg State 74-70, which left the Bronchos first round bye aspirations in their own hands.

Marqueese Grayson did not score a single point in the first half – he only took one shot. Just 13 seconds into the second half Grayson was pulled out of the game by Hankins after he fouled an opposing player.

But it was Grayson, on senior night, in his last home game in a Broncho uniform, who pushed the Bronchos over the top in the closing seconds.

Grayson scored his first points of the game off a layup at the 15:35 mark in the second half.

Five minutes later Grayson hit a jump shot. 20 seconds later, Grayson followed it up with a 3-pointer. Grayson made his next two baskets, and scored a total of nine points in a span of 2 minutes and 25 seconds.

The Bronchos led 54-48 with eight minutes to go in the game.

Fast forward to a little under two minutes remaining in the game and Emporia State is only down one. Hornets Center Garin Vandiver, who scored 20 points, received the ball at the top of the key and drilled a 3-pointer to put the Hornets on top, 70-68. It was their first lead since the 10:00 mark of the second half.

Jordan Hemphill, the Bronchos leading scorer for the game with 20 points, hit a jump shot to tie the game at 70. However, Emporia State was able to get in the lane for a layup on the next possession to take a 72-70 lead with 48 seconds to go.

While UCO was fighting for a first round bye, Emporia State was on the outside looking in. The Hornets were already eliminated from tournament contention, now they were just trying to spoil the Bronchos efforts at securing their first ever first round bye.

Hornets guard, Brandon Hall, screamed as Emporia State took the lead once again, clapping his hands together as the Hornets were on the verge of spoiling UCO’s senior night and tournament hopes. That is until the ball got back into Grayson’s hands.

Grayson dribbled the ball at the top of the key and saw a weak point in the defense as he drove the lane. A swarm of Hornets defenders packed the paint to stop Grayson, but it was too late. Grayson laid the ball in and earned a trip to the free throw line with a chance to take the lead. Grayson’s free throw was nothing but net and the Bronchos went on top 73-72.

The Hornets had a chance to take the lead, but Hall missed a layup with eight seconds left and Hemphill and Corbin Byford both hit free throws to seal the game.

Grayson finished the game with 16 points on 6 of 9 shooting.

“We’re just fortunate to have him for a year,” Hankins said. “[He’s] a wonderful, wonderful guy, really good teammate and he can score the basketball as he did tonight.”

Byford ended the game with 11 points and eight rebounds while Jake Hammond, another senior, finished with five points, six rebounds and two blocks.

“I thought the in first half [Corbin Byford] and Jake Hammond were really, really good,” Hankins said. “They protected the rim, blocked some shots and got a bunch of rebounds.”

Hankins said Josh Holliday, who also played in his last home game, had a terrific game. Holliday came off the bench and scored 14 points, including three 3-pointers.

Now the Bronchos move on to the MIAA tournament and Hankins said there is still work to be done.

“We’re gonna have to go in there and shoot the ball well,” Hankins said. “On the nights where we shoot the ball well, make three’s and make open shots, we’re a really good team. We can compete with anyone in the league.”

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