Tanner Shoemaker, Sports Information Director
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The No. 7 seed University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma pulled off the 78-75 upset victory over No. 2 Seed The Master’s University in EPIC fashion, late Thursday night in Kansas City. “Clutch” Hutch Peterson (SR/Tulsa, OK) game was held scoreless through the first 39 minutes and 59 seconds, but it took just an instant for him to become a hero… AGAIN!
From the tip-off, it was clear that this was going to be a battle, in the first round of the NAIA Men’s Basketball Championship. The two squads traded punches in the first half of the game, but USAO was able to take a 30-28 lead into the break. The Drovers could’ve taken a larger lead into halftime, but struggles at the free-throw line and three-point range kept the game close. USAO connected on only 3 out of 9 first half free-throws, and they were just 3-12 from deep. However, The Master’s struggled just as much as the underdogs.
The Drovers started the second half on fire, and led by as many as 13 points with 13 minutes remaining in regulation. With a snap of the finger, the Mustangs were right back in the game as they took the lead away less than a minute later. From that point forward the game was a heavyweight bout, as they traded punches once again. With the Drovers leading 75-73, the Mustangs sank a game-tying lay-up with 4.4 left on the clock. Manny Gatkek quickly inbounded the ball to Hutch Peterson, and he quickly raced down the floor, releasing the ball from beyond the arc, just prior to the clock striking 0.0. The final buzzer of the game sounded just a couple minutes after the clock struck midnight, but Cinderella was still dancin’ at the ball!
When asked about Peterson’s game-winner, USAO Men’s Basketball Head Coach Chris Francis replied,” Really this is no surprise… He’s a four-year player here. He was the kid I ever signed as the head coach at USAO… He’s won FOUR games for me at the buzzer.” Earlier this year, Peterson knocked down a buzzer-beating lay-up to take down No. 21 John Brown University in Chickasha. He only scored 3 points, but they were by far the most impactful 3 points of the entire 2019 NAIA Men’s Basketball Championship so far.
The Master’s University entered the contest with a 27-5 record, and they were fresh off of an 8-game win streak and a GSAC Tournament Championship. The Drovers entered the game with a 20-10 record, and they were coming off of a disappointing loss against Mid-America Christian University in the opening round of the Sooner Athletic Conference Tournament.
Dedrian Parmer (JR/Oklahoma City, OK) led all players in scoring with 25 points, while adding 7 rebounds and 3 assists. Stephon Hall (FR/Oklahoma City, OK) made some big shots down the stretch, finishing with 18 points, 9 rebounds (career-high), and 3 assists. Geno Artison (SR/Seattle, WA) picked up his eighth double-double of the season as he concluded with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Clay Long (SR/Plain Dealing, LA) also scored in double figures, concluding with 12 points, 6 rebounds, and a pair of assists. Manny Gatkek (FR/Amarillo, TX) added 6 points and 2 rebounds in the opening round victory. Hutch Peterson grabbed 5 rebounds and dished out 5 assists to go with his game-winning 3 points.
The Drovers will now quickly prepare to face No. 3 seed Wiley College at 9:15 PM in Municipal Auditorium in the Sweet Sixteen round of the NAIA Men’s Basketball Championship on Friday, March 22.