By Nick Hampton
WARNER – The Connors State Cowboys and Cowgirls gained a split of their home openers Monday night at Melvin Self Field House as the Cowboys cruised to an easy victory while the Cowgirls let a see-saw affair get away from them in the last three minutes.
The Cowboys (2-0) hosted Southwestern Christian University in their second contest of the season and led wire-to-wire in an 87-65 victory.
Returning sophomore Josh Cameron and newcomer Willie Atwood paced the Cowboys with 18 points each while Hakeem Harris was the only other Cowboy in double figures with 11 points. Connors opened up at 8-2 advantage in the first three minutes of the game and were never in trouble as the Cowboys’ speed and rebounding ability proved too much for the visiting Eagles.
“I was concerned a little bit about our defensive end in stopping the basketball,” said Connors coach Bill Muse, who enters his 21st season at the helm for the Cowboys. “I thought Atwood was a bright spot, especially in the first half. He was the one who got us going. For a home opener, I guess it was okay, but we’ve got to get so much better than we are now.”
Devante Moore and Jamarcus Weatherspoon each contributed nine points to the Connors victory as Muse was able to play everyone on the bench including former Hilldale Hornet Tony Cabrera who had two points in his first home action as a Cowboy. Deonta Samilton was the leading scorer for Southwestern with 19 points.
The competition will pick up this weekend for Connors as they host the Cowboy Classic with games at 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Friday and one game at 2 p.m. Saturday.
In the women’s game, the Cowgirls and Northark played a back-and-forth game the whole way. But in the end it was the three-point shooting of the Lady Pioneers and the Cowgirls inability to defend that spelled the difference that gave Northark the 73-67 victory.
The Lady Pioneers (3-0) knocked down 16 three-pointers in the game to just four for the Cowgirls and coach Eddie Kite was understandably disappointed in the defensive effort of his squad.
“You’ve got to get out there and contest those shots and we just did a really poor job of getting out and closing them down and containing them,” said Kite, now in his 11th season at Connors. “We did a really poor job of playing inside tonight. I thought that would be a strength for us this year, but we sure didn’t show it.”
The teams played close in the first half with Connors State’s largest lead of seven points, 29-22, with just over three minutes left. Northark cut it to a five point deficit, 35-30, at halftime. The Lady Pioneers battled back to take a seven point lead at 57-50 with just over eight minutes to play. But the Cowgirls surged to a 62-60 advantage with 5:30 to play. The game was tied one last time at 65-65 with 3:05 to play. But the Lady Pioneers closed the game with an 8-2 run that included two three-pointers in the final two minutes.
“It was their third game and just our first and it showed,” said Kite. “We’ll have to improve quickly as we have Crowder, who won 20 games last season, and Northark again this weekend in the Northark tournament.”
Returning sophomore Tiara Hall was the leading scorer for the Cowgirls with 16 points while Tonisha Dean had 12 and new freshmen Kami Bunch and Shakemia Franklin had 10 points each for Connors (0-1). Northark was paced by Allie Wade who had 21 points which included five three-pointers.
Before the North Ark tournament, the Cowgirls will play the Bacone junior varsity at 7 p.m. Wednesday in Muskogee.