Harding Wins GAC Tournament, Will Return to NCAAs

Local Sports
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BARTLESVILLE, OK – Nobody thought it could happen, but it did. Coming off five consecutive losses to end the regular season, the No. 5 seed Harding men’s basketball won three straight games at the Great American Conference Tournament and will be returning to the NCAA Division II tournament for the fifth time and for the second straight season after defeating Henderson State 93-86 on Saturday in double overtime.

Harding (15-14) will learn their opponent and the location of NCAA Division II Central Region Tournament on Sunday at 9:30 p.m. when the bracket is announced on NCAA.com.

The game was tied 74-74 at the end of regulation and 81-81 at the end of the first overtime. Harding’s Hayden Johnson had a potential game-winning tip-in at the end of the first overtime, but it was waived off as it left his hands just after the buzzer.

Harding, who made a season-high 16 3-pointers in the game, controlled the second overtime period.

Blake McNair, who scored a career-high 25 points, opened the second overtime with his sixth 3-pointer of the game. Weston Jameson, the GAC Tournament MVP, followed that with another 3-pointer on the next possession.

Henderson State’s Kevin Kozan answered that with a 3-pointer to cut the Harding lead to 87-84, but the Bisons got three straight free throws from Johnson and a layup from Will Francis to seal the victory.

“What a gutsy performance and some great kids,” Harding head coach Jeff Morgan said. “We were fortunate to get some stops and make some shots at the end.”

McNair, one of three Harding players on the All-Tournament Team, connected on 8-of-10 shots, including 6-of-7 3-pointers. He also had six rebounds, four assists, and three steals.

Jameson scored 21 points and had seven assists. He made 5-of-8 3-pointers. Johnson scored 11 of his 16 points at the free throw line, and Jacob Gibson made four 3-pointers and scored 14 points.

Henderson State had five players with 10 points or more and was led by Melvin Haynes with 17.

Harding had all five starters play 42 minutes or more. Jameson played all 50 and played every second of Harding’s three tournament victories.

“Today was all about going on guts and adrenaline,” Morgan said. “What a great college basketball game.”

(Courtesy: Harding Sports Information)

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