Joplin, Mo. -- Michelle Hedgecock scored a team-high 16 points, including hitting the game-winning layup to propel the Missouri Southern Lions to a critical 61-59 victory over the Central Missouri Jennies Wednesday evening (Jan. 27) at the Leggett & Platt Athletic Center.
The Lions improved to 5-7 in the MIAA and 11-8 overall, while the Jennies dropped to 10-9 overall and 6-6 in the league. The Lions entered the night in the ninth spot in the conference, but climbed into a tie for seventh and only one game out of fifth in the MIAA. The top eight squads qualify for the MIAA Tournament in Kansas City, Mo.
Hedgecock's field goal with seven seconds left gave the Lions their first lead since the opening basket of the game.
The Lions then forced a miss that appropriately ended up in Hedgecock's hands to seal the victory.
The Lions trailed 57-52 with 4:39 remaining when they tightened things up on the defensive end. The Lions held the Jennies without a field goal for the next 3:30 that allowed them to tie the score on a layup from Jasmine Lovejoy and a three by Kelby Fritz with 1:49 left.
During that stretch, the Lions forced three straight missed shots and one turnover.
Rebecca Roberts broke the scoring drought for the Jennies with a layup that gave the Jennies a short-lived 59-57 advantage with 1:28 remaining.
Hedgecock quickly answered with a jumper that again knotted the score with 1:09 left.
The Lions had to play from behind nearly the whole evening, trailing by as many as 10 on two occasions in the second half, with the last occurring at the 8:40 point.
A pair of threes from Jolea Apon helped spark a 10-3 spurt that cut the deficit to 55-52 with 4:58 remaining.
The Jennies got off to a quick start by scoring 11 straight after Apon opened the game's scoring with a three.
A three by Kara Fleming extended the Jennies' lead to double-figures at 20-9 before the Lions surged back with a 10-2 run.
Afton Baldwin started things with a trey and then capped the spurt with a layup that made it 22-19 at the 10:10 mark of the opening half.
UCM answered right back with a 10-4 run as a three from Meghan Waggoner put the Jennies out in front 32-23.
The Lions then continued the trend of first-half runs with six straight of their own to make it a three-point game at the 4:24 mark.
Defense was the name of the game the rest of the opening half as each squad managed just one field goal down the stretch and the Jennies took a 34-31 lead at the break.
Hedgecock followed her career game at Truman with another solid outing with team-highs of 16 points and 11 rebounds. Apon scored along nine with six rebounds.
Roberts led three Jennies in double-figures with a game-high 21 points on 6-of-8 from the field and 9-of-10 from the free-throw line. Danielle Shows scored 13 and had a game-high eight boards, while Deidra Dace added 10.
A big reason why the Lions were able to emerge victorious despite trailing most of the night was their hard work on the boards. The Lions out-rebounded the Jennies by a whopping 46-30 overall with a 15-7 edge on the offensive glass.
The Lions will now play at Southwest Baptist on Saturday evening (Jan. 30) at 5:30 p.m. in Bolivar, Mo. The Lions slipped by SBU 62-61 in the season's first meeting earlier this season (12/28/09) in Joplin.