CEU freshman guard Aaron Hawk-Harris signals for his team to slow things down in a recent NJCAA basketball tournament contest in Hutchinson, Kan. CEU went 3-1 to capture third place, the school's best ever record in the 63-year-old event.
Chanting, "We're No. 3!" certainly isn't as sweet as shouting, "We're No. 1!" but for the College of Eastern Utah Eagles, third place isn't so bad, especially if one is third best in the entire world of junior college basketball.
Sophomore guard Leon Sutton jump-started the Eagles late in the game acting as a much needed catalyst for CEU's 65-61 overtime victory over Navarro College (Corsicana, Tex.) in the third-place contest at the 2010 National Junior College Athletic Association basketball tournament in Hutchinson, Kan. This is CEU's best finish ever.
Sutton led the charge on offense he hit a 12-footer to send it to overtime in their impressive win. After trailing most of the game, CEU found their way and managed a huge comeback.
Eastern Utah struggled from the start against Navarro. After faltering late in the March 19 semifinal vs. Howard, CEU could not seem to get anything started in the game.
Missed opportunities were the name of the game in the first half. CEU had 16 turnovers by intermission. They went 4-17 from the field and had no three-pointers. The club led the Bulldogs in rebounding, but couldn't not capitalize on them, and managed to make only eight of 19 from the free throw line.
Freshman forward Michael Glover who collected 19 against Howard, had only seven points in the first half. Frustration was evident on the faces of both coaches and players.
One fan even made the comment that the first half was like watching "Helen Keller play Stevie Wonder one-on-one."
Navarro continued to run the floor late in the first half. CEU was still flat and allowed the Bulldogs to control the tempo and keep CEU off balance. Navarro stopped CEU short several times but it was CEU that was its own worst enemy. The score at the half had CEU trailing by a dozen, 28-16.
Second half play began slowly again for the Eagles but they slowly ate away at Navarro's lead. The Bulldogs were on fire from beyond the arc with Matt Pressey hitting five three-pointers and Darian Thibodeaux having four for the evening.
The Eagles slowly built momentum during the half, though. The officiating was questionable at best as the Eagles had over 12 fouls off the glass or on offense.
Free-throw shooting was also poor during the second half, but started to pick up during the last minutes of regulation. The lead was within reach during the last two minutes of play and the Eagles fought hard for it.
With less than one minute remaining, Glover who was on the bench during most of the second half due to foul trouble, turned it on for CEU.
With just six seconds to play, Sutton hit a 12-foot jump shot to tie it at 52. Navarro missed its shot on the other end, sending it to overtime.
In overtime, the Eagles got fired up with Sutton leading the way. Glover, with the assists from Sutton, was able to trounce his defenders for the first time in the game, allowing the crowd to view a performance typical of him.
Navarro's Pressey kept the score close as he dropped back into three-point zone and made his shots.
Thibodeaux was also able to make his three's as well, cutting down CEU's hard-fought lead. Free-throws were finally dropping for the Eagles as more than once Jonathan Mills was able to drain them keeping the Bulldogs at bay.