Joplin, Mo. - Hope Gregory produced game-highs of 18 points and nine rebounds to lead the No. 13-ranked Washburn Lady Blues to an 81-57 win over the Missouri Southern Lions Wednesday evening (Feb. 17) at the Leggett & Platt Athletic Center.
With the loss, the Lions are 7-10 in the MIAA and in a seventh-place tie in the MIAA with Nebraska-Omaha. Both teams sit one game behind Northwest Missouri State for sixth in the league. The top eight teams qualify for the Postseason Tournament.
Washburn scored on their first three possessions to take an early 9-3 lead. The Lions quickly tied the score with six straight as jumpers by Erin Rice and Michelle Hedgecock cut it to two and then a steal by Erin Rice led to a layup by Jasmine Lovejoy that tied the score.
The Lady Blues grabbed the lead right back by reeling off nine straight as Hope Gregory and Stevi Schultz each hit from long-distance and Dayna Rodriguez got free under the basket for a layup for an eight-point lead.
The Lions continued the back-and-forth runs with a 9-3 spurt of their own that was started and capped on layups from Lovejoy that brought Southern to within 20-18 with 9:14 left in the first half.
The Lions trailed 24-20 when the Lady Blues extended the lead to double-figures with a 7-0 run to jump ahead by 11 at the 6:46 mark of the second half.
With the deficit at 34-25, Gregory hit a pair of free throws and Cassie Lombardino scored six straight points to spark a 10-0 WU run that concluded the first half and put the Lady Blues up by 19 at the half.
Jolea Apon began the second half by connecting on a three, but the Lady Blues stretched the lead to 27 by out-scoring the Lions 12-1 over the next six minutes. Rodriguez made two shots and Amanda Fessenden nailed a pair of threes to lead the charge.
LaTice Jones hit consecutive jumpers to help the Lions (13-11, 7-10 MIAA) make a push to within 57-35 at the 13:34 mark before Schultz and Gregory each hit threes that sparked an 11-3 spurt to give the Lady Blues (21-3, 15-3 MIAA) their biggest lead of the night at 68-38 with 10:08 left.
The closest the Lions were able to get from that point was the final 24-point margin as Apon hit a three as time expired.
Apon and Lovejoy both scored 12 to lead the Lions. Lovejoy, Hedgecock and Jones each pulled down a team-high five rebounds.
Gregory's 18 points came on 4-of-9 shooting from the floor overall and 4-of-7 from three-point distance. She was also a perfect 6-of-6 from the charity stripe. Rodriguez also reached double-digit scoring with 17 points. Rose Hammond dished out a game-high assists for the Lady Blues.
The Lions will now celebrate Senior Day by hosting the Fort Hays State Lady Tigers on Saturday afternoon (Feb. 20) at 1 p.m. at the Leggett & Platt Athletic Center. The Lady Tigers slipped by the Lions earlier this season (Jan. 11) 73-68 in Hays, Kan.