Rivalries abound for OBU teams
February 27, 2008
Evan Grace dribbles his way through St. Gregory’s defenders Feb. 19. OBU won all four basketball games this year over the cross-town rivals. By Ryan Weaver
Rivalries make watching sports fun. The energy, the emotion and the history all get poured into a game. But with a conference as competitive as the Sooner Athletic Conference, deciding Oklahoma Baptist’s biggest rival takes careful consideration.
“We were talking about that tonight, whether it was [Southern Nazarene] or [Oklahoma City] or Oklahoma Christian,” Keely Tolin, senior guard for the Lady Bison, said Thursday. “We just don’t like all of them. Any one of those three is a good win. It’s close.”
Oklahoma City gets a lot of consideration for top honors. A game against the Stars almost always has big implications as one or both teams in the game are almost always a top team in conference and the nation.
“I suspect we’d have to say Oklahoma City University because we’ve played so many big games against them,” said John Parrish, Bison basketball broadcaster and historian. “Back in the ‘90s, that was probably the best rivalry around in small college basketball.”
The Stars joined the SAC in the 1985-86 season, and the rivalry began to grow soon afterward. Three years later, the two schools combined for 271 points in a men’s game that went into two overtimes, which the Bison won 137-134 and set an OBU record for most points scored in a game for both teams.
In 1994, OCU ended the Bison’s title hopes, beating them 86-85 in the national semifinals on the way to their third NAIA Championship.
In terms of current series, OBU and Oklahoma Christian have played the closest and the most often throughout the years, with OC having a two-game advantage in the 164 games between the two basketball programs. Last year epitomized the rivalry when all five OBU/OC games year were decided by six points or less.
While SGU sits a mile down MacArthur Street from Bison Hill and the match-up bears the title “Holy Wars,” the series has been lopsided in OBU’s favor (42-6) and relatively short compared to other rivalries.
“I guess it’s a little bit of a rivalry, but it’s a little different when you’re playing games up here,” Keely Tolin said after the game at SNU. For the first time since the 1986-87 season, the Lady Bison swept the Crimson Storm.
Bison Head Coach Doug Tolin doesn’t want to pick the biggest rival.
“I think we’ve got to be ready to play against everybody in this league every night. If you start picking out ‘this is a big games and this is a big game,’ what you’re saying is everyone’s not a big game, and they all are,” he said. “And they all count the same. A win on the road against OCU is as valuable as a win here against whoever you want to pick.
“You can’t point to certain ones and try to skip over ones. If you start skipping over, you’ll be in trouble if you try to skip over people in this league.”
Case and point: the Jan. 17 games against Science and Arts of Oklahoma. Both OBU squads came off three-point victories over OCU, the men’s game ending in dramatic fashion with Evan Grace banking a half-court shot to win 76-73 at home, and the game after USAO, the Crimson Storm came to Bison Hill. Both OCU and SNU have been in the Top 25 all year long. USAO handed the Lady Bison their first loss of the season in overtime and beat the Bison 59-57.
But not to say USAO isn’t a rival. After all, the men’s teams met on the biggest stage in the NAIA in 2002, which the Drovers won 96-79.
Back in the days of the Oklahoma Collegiate Athletic Conference, Parrish said Southeastern Oklahoma State claimed the title of OBU’s biggest rival. They played a total of 173 times, 146 of those times between the men’s teams.
The SAC provides a lot of close competitive games and with two new teams in Rogers State and Mid-America Christian in the conference, rivalries will continue to grow.