Hays wins 700th, OC runs past Spring Arbor in NCCAA tourney
By Murray Evans
WINONA LAKE, Ind. (March 13, 2013) – As he has done so many times during his 35 years as a head coach, Oklahoma Christian’s Dan Hays made a few tweaks at halftime during the Eagles’ game against Spring Arbor (Mich.) on Wednesday afternoon.
Those tweaks worked, allowing the Eagles to provide Hays with a milestone win. OC ran past Spring Arbor 83-59 in the first round of the National Christian College Athletic Association Championship at the Orthopaedic Capital Center, giving Hays his 700th career victory.
Only three other men who have coached basketball at an Oklahoma college have recorded at least 700 wins – current Mid-America Christian coach Willie Holley and College Basketball Hall of Fame members Henry Iba and Eddie Sutton, who both coached at Oklahoma State.
More importantly for Hays, OC (18-11) advanced to its first-ever national semifinal and will play Thursday at 5:15 Eastern time against second-seeded Cedarville (Ohio).
“We made a couple of defensive adjustments … and they made a big difference,” Hays said. “We played a terrific second half. I thought our three key guys off the bench – Willie (Harper), Nick (Tate) and Eric (Randall) – when they came in, that was the difference, them knocking down those shots.
“It was a very effective, workmanlike job and I feel good about it.”
The third-seeded Eagles trailed sixth-seeded Spring Arbor (22-11) in the early going but took the lead for good with 14:40 left and steadily pulled away from the Cougars after that.
Tate scored 17 points, 10 of those coming during a decisive 17-0 second-half OC run. The Eagles’ 6-foot-10 center, Will Reinke, added 17 points, 12 rebounds, four blocked shots and two steals, even after Spring Arbor point guard Matt Van Pelt predicted on Twitter before the game that the Cougars’ center, Matt Howe, would “shut him (Reinke) down.”
Howe went 2-of-5 from the field, scored eight points, had five assists and committed six of the Cougars’ 17 turnovers. Van Pelt had three points and six assists.
Senior Devan White added 13 points for OC on 5-of-6 shooting and capped the win with a ferocious fast-break dunk with 2:16 left. That sort of finish was eminently more satisfying than the aftermath of OC’s 89-87 loss to Mid-America Christian in the NCCAA Central Region semifinals in Bartlesville last Friday. OC squeezed into the national tournament courtesy of an at-large berth.
“We remembered how we played in Bartlesville and how much the loss hurt, especially for the seniors, thinking that was our last game,” White said. “We knew if we had the chance, we wanted to come out focused and show that we’re for real. We let them know that we’ve come to play for a national championship.”
White said he was proud to have had a small part in Hays’ achievement.
“Those are some esteemed names that he’s with,” White said of his coach. “It is special. For me to be a part of his team is a huge honor and a privilege. I’m happy to have a part in getting him 700 wins. He’s a great coach and a lot of people don’t understand that.”
Spring Arbor’s primary offensive weapon was guard Rob Hogans, who scored 26 points. Hogans had 18 of those in the first half and the Cougars led 25-18 after his steal and layup at the 6:09 mark.
OC closed the half on an 8-2 run and led 34-31 after Kendre Talley’s driving layup at the buzzer. The Cougars took the lead back early in the second half and were up 44-42 after Chris Bellamy’s two free throws with 15:24 left. Spring Arbor didn’t score again for more than 4½ minutes.
Harper tied the game with a long 2-point jumper, then hit a difficult 3-point shot in transition to give the Eagles a 47-44 lead with 14:40 left. Tate then added a driving basket and a 3-pointer and later capped the 17-0 run with a 3-pointer that put OC up 59-44 with 11:11 left.
Spring Arbor came no closer than 12 points after that. For good measure, OC extended its lead with an 11-2 run and was ahead 73-52 with 5:16 left, then closed the game on a 10-3 run. The Eagles shot 52.5 percent from the field for the game and 57.6 percent (19 of 33) in the second half.
Hogans, who had been so effective in the first half, scored only eight points in the second half. Bellamy finished with 14 points but no other Spring Arbor player reached double figures.
Talley had eight points and nine assists for OC, while Brandon Troutman and Derek Johnson both added eight points each. Reinke’s 17-point outing lifted his career total to 1,484, into 20th place on the program’s all-time scoring list, past new OC Athletic Hall of Fame inductee Mike Gipson, who scored 1,472 points from 1962-1966.
Hays, who hadn’t mentioned the 700-win possibility to his team, said he was humbled and honored, first by Northwestern Oklahoma State giving him a chance to be a collegiate head coach 35 years ago, then by the OC administration that hired him in 1983 and has kept him there ever since.
“I know it’s unusual for someone to stay at a university as long as I have and I’m glad I’ve had that opportunity,” Hays said. “It means a lot. It really does. It means that we’ve had kids who have played well and coaches who have coached well. We’ve done the right thing and graduated people.
“I’m very thankful to Oklahoma Christian for hiring me, to (former Executive Vice President) Stafford North and (former Athletic Director) Max Dobson and (former President) Terry Johnson, because my resume probably didn’t deserve the job. But I’m happy. It’s a great school and I hope we honor it with our program.”