Micah Delph shattered the hearts of Henderson State (11-16, 7-12) on Friday night as he knocked down a game-winning three with less than one second remaining to lead the Tigers to a 59-58 win over the Reddies. Delph’s third game-winning shot of the season capped off a phenomenal 19-point second half performance.
“Everybody on the team has a role. My role is at the end of the game to send the other team home,” said Delph. “It’s a role I treasure, so that’s what I’m going to do.”
Both the Tigers and Reddies struggled offensively in the first half. The Tigers were 10-27 from the field and shot only 18.2 percent from three-point range. The Reddies shot 9-24 from the field and 20 percent from beyond the arc. “They’re a tough opponent,” said Head coach Dennis Nutt. “We have a tough time scoring against them.”
HSU began the second half with a 10-2 scoring run while the Tigers poor offensive first half play continued. “I was getting good looks in the first half, I just wasn’t knocking them down,” said Delph. “I’m a shooter, so I’m going to keep shooting.”
Delph was true to his word, shooting 4-8 from long range in the second half. “I’m trying to do whatever it takes to win,” said Delph.
Delph and forward Colt Fason were instrumental in the Tigers second half comeback. “We try to keep Micah and Colt in the game together to see if one would break open,” said Nutt. “We had to make sure we got a good attempt every time.”
Henderson State had a chance to seal the victory from the free-throw line with 10 seconds left. However, freshman guard Kevin Kozan missed the front end of his one-and-one free-throw attempt.
The Tigers took advantage of the missed attempt. Delph rebounded the missed free throw and brought the ball up the court. “I told Colt, we’re going to play a two-man game,” said Delph. Delph orchestrated his own play since the Tigers were out of timeouts. Using a screen from Fason, Delph drained a three-pointer from the top of the key.
“What a better guy to have the ball in his hands,” said Nutt. “He has a history of hitting big shots.”
Delph finished the game with 24 points, eight rebounds, five assists, and three steals. Fason finished with 17 points and had nine boards.
Taylor Smith led HSU with 11 points, three rebounds, and three assists. Deoirvay Johnson scored 10 points and five rebounds.
The Tigers kept their tournament hopes alive Thursday night as they moved one game ahead of Southeastern Oklahoma State. “We needed to take care of home court,” said Nutt. “It gave us one game up.” Southeastern Oklahoma State lost to East Central University earlier Thursday night.
The Tigers control their own destiny in their final game of the season. A win on Saturday clinches a tournament birth for the Tigers. “We’re playing a tough opponent on the road in Monticello,” said Nutt. “But these guys still want to play in March.”
The Tigers (9-16, 6-13) travel to Monticello, Ark. this Saturday to play their regular-season finale against the Boll Weevils of the University of Arkansas at Monticello. Tipoff is scheduled for 4:00 pm.
By: Mat Brockway