Joplin, Mo. - Qualifying for the MIAA post-season tournament with their 68-66 win over Central Oklahoma on Monday, the Missouri Southern Lions women's basketball team will look to improve their seeding when they return to action Wednesday evening traveling to Pittsburg State to play the Gorillas at 5:30 p.m at John Lance Arena in the Sonic Trophy Series matchup.
The Lions last time out (12-12, 6-10 MIAA): Behind 15 points from senior forward Erin Rice and two clutch free throws from Samantha Soyez, the Missouri Southern Lions women's basketball team won a nail-bitter tonight over Central Oklahoma defeating the Bronchos 68-66 on Senior Night Monday.
With the Bronchos up by six at halftime, the Lions would come out of the locker room on a 8-0 run to start the second half to find themselves up a pair. A back and forth affair, the final twenty minutes of the game would see eleven lead changes and seven ties as neither team would lead by more than three until the Lions would take a four-point lead on a layup from Rice with 5:18 to play.
Southern would extend their lead to six on a pair of free throws from Sharese Jones, keeping it at that margin until the Bronchos would score six straight points on three free-throws and a three-pointer to tie the game at 66 with 52 seconds to play. Soyez would knock down a pair of free throws with 22 seconds remaining to give the Lions a two-point lead. Putting the Bronchos at the free throw line with two seconds remaining, neither shot would find the bottom of the basket as the Lions held on for the two point win.
The Gorillas last time out (17-7, 11-5 MIAA): Winning their fifth consecutive game, Drew Roberts led the Pitt State women's basketball team to a 79-68 win over Central Oklahoma on Saturday (Feb. 23) afternoon. Roberts finished the game with 15 points, tying her season high, and topping 1,000 points in her career.
Lauren Brown and LIzzy Jeronimus each led the team with double-doubles. Each scored 16 points, Brown led with 14 rebounds, while Jeronimus contributed 10. Alexa Bordewick and Morgan Westhoff each added nine points.
UCO's Savannah Hamilton hit a three at the buzzer to put the Bronchos up 41-40 at the half, but UCO had its last lead of the game, 43-42, with 19:13 left in the game. Lauren Brown hit a layup less than a minute later and the Gorillas never trailed again. A Bordewick three with just over eight minutes remaining gave the team its first double digit lead of the game and the team earned as much as a 14 point lead with less than a minute left.
The Coaches: Maryann Mitts is the winningest coach in Missouri Southern history. Under Mitts' guidance, the Lions have averaged 17 wins during her 11 years at the helm and have finished in the upper echelon of the highly competitive Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association seven of those 11 years. In 16 years as a collegiate head coach, Mitts has amassed an impressive 13 winning seasons. Notable, the Lions have also narrowly missed the NCAA post-season tournament in six of those 11 years. Overall, Mitts has compiled a 186-144 (.564) record in 12 years with the Lions. She holds a 269-200 (.574) mark in 17 years as a collegiate head coach. Mitts currently ranks amongst the Top 50 of all Division II active coaches in all-time victories.
Lane Lord is in his sixth season as head coach of Pittsburg State. Under Lord's tutelage, the Gorillas had their best season in school history in 2011-12 reaching its first NCAA tournament in Lord's tenure and earned their first-ever win in NCAA tournament play in program history. The team set school records for most wins (27), fewest losses (six), highest winning percentage (.818), consecutive wins (14), most points in a game (111 vs. Harris Stowe), rebounds (1,328) and blocked shots (183).
The Series between the two schools: The Gorillas hold a slim lead in the overall series with Southern 43-39, having won the last five matchups with the Lions. Southern holds a 23-17 advantage at home, but fell in their most recent matchup at home 66-63 on January 16. Pittsburg State holds a 25-15 lead in Pittsburg, Kan., with the Lions last victory coming on February 11, 2009 58-55.