Eastern men score improbable win at Northern Arizona
Freshman Harvey helps Eagles stage stunning rally from 18 down in final seven minutes to upend ‘Jacks in OT
It’s hard to say what the end result will be, but Eastern Washington’s men’s Big Sky Conference basketball season might have been brought back from the dead, and eased away from the cliff last Saturday afternoon in Flagstaff, Ariz.
Trailing by 18 points with under 8 minutes to play, and not being able to buy a 3-point shot even with the biggest pile of gold, the Eagles used the hot hand of freshman Tyler Harvey to for a 77-74 overtime win over Northern Arizona.
“Now if we can take care of home court (Saturday) with three of the next four on the road, we can really gain momentum here,” Eastern head coach Jim Hayford said.
That home stretch starts this Saturday, Feb. 16 when Eastern hosts Southern Utah at 2:05 p.m. in a game televised regionally on SWX. The Eagles are at Portland State Monday (Feb. 18) and back home next Saturday, Feb. 23 at 1:05 p.m. versus Sam Houston State in the ESPN BracketBusters.
Harvey, a redshirt freshman, came off the bench to score 14 points in the last 8 minutes, 31 seconds of the game and rallied the Eagles to a most improbable – and critical – win.
“It’s just a fantastic win for us,” Hayford said. “When you look at where it puts us in the race and our goal of where it puts us in the Big Sky tournament, it’s even more dramatic.”
The victory helped Eastern earn a split in their road swing following a 61-55 loss at Sacramento State last Thursday. The Eagles improved to 5-9 in conference play, 7-17 overall, while the Lumberjacks fell to 6-8 and 9-15. Eastern won both game splayed this season between the two and earns a possible postseason tiebreaker.
With six games remaining, Eastern finds itself a game back of the seventh and final berth in the Big Sky tournament, at this point likely headed to Missoula, March 14-15.
Eastern was able to turn around a totally dismal 3-point game in the final 7:35, having missed 12 of 13 3s to start the second half and after the Lumberjacks had built their seemingly insurmountable lead.
Jordan Hickert lit the fuse with his 3 that cut the deficit to 58-46 at the 6:04 mark. Then Harvey, a grad from Bishop Montgomery High School in Torrance, Calif. used just 26 seconds to score five points that trimmed the deficit to single digits at 59-51 with 3:05 to go.
Three’s from Parker Kelly, one with 2:16 to play and the other to tie with 15 seconds remaining were wrapped around 3s from Kevin Winford and Harvey to finish a 23-6 run and send the game into overtime, tied at 66-66.
Harvey, collected another pair of 3s in the 5-minute overtime and Kelly completed his career-high 19-point day in overtime as Eastern built a 75-71 lead and sealed it with a pair of Jeffrey Forbes’ free throws – plus a big Winford rebound of a 3-point miss by NAU – as time ran out.
Winford scored 12 points and Forbes 10 to round out Eastern’s double figures scoring. Winford added a career-high four steals and Forbes a similar personal best eight rebounds after coming off being sidelines with a hand injury.
“Wow, what a great day for all of our guys,” Hayford said. “You couldn’t write it any more dramatic.”
Kelly, who like practically everyone else for Eastern in the first half, had his troubles shooting the ball – especially from his long-range comfort zone – assured Hayford he’d do better.
“When Parker missed a couple of 3s earlier, he comes out and says, ‘Coach, I will make those,’ and then he did,” Hayford said.
After taking its 58-40 lead, NAU scored its next 10 points at the free throw line. The Jacks had a stretch of 9:38 without a field goal.
Hayford used a trapping defense in the final four minutes of the second half to complete the comeback and help force the game into overtime.
“We decided to make it a long four minutes,” he explained. “We were going to trap like crazy, and if they broke the trap we were going to foul the next player and make it a longer game.”
Gabe Rogers scored 25 to lead NAU. The loss spoiled a triple-double by Lumberjack guard Stallon Saldivar, who finished with 13 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists.
The win was Eastern’s first of the season in 12 tries on an opponent’s home court. It snapped a 13-game losing skid overall on the road.
The Eagles opened the trip playing their second-straight game without freshman sensation Venky Jois a 61-55 loss to Sacramento State.
After the Eagles used a 9-0 run to take its first leads of the game in the second half, but a scoreless spell of nearly five minutes led to the loss.
Senior Collin Chiverton made 5-of-6 shots and finished with 12 points to lead Eastern with Winford adding 11.
Paul Delaney can be reached at email@example.com.