Joplin, Mo. - With five Lions finishing in double figures, led by sophomore guard Sharese Jones, the Missouri Southern women's basketball team won a back-and-forth battle this afternoon over Fort Hays State 76-71 at the the Leggett & Platt Athletic Center.
The St. Charles native finished with a game-high 18 points, going 11-of-15 from the free throw line, while Shonte Clay added 14 points and grabbed a team-best eight rebounds. Nicole Hartzog added 13 points for Southern (9-2, 3-1 MIAA), all coming from the free throw line, while Samantha Soyez scored a career-high 12 points, going a perfect 4-for-4 from the free throw line. Dominique Mosley also finished with 12 points, grabbed four rebounds and secured a pair of blocks.
The Tigers (8-2, 2-2) were led by Kate Lehman and Katelyn Edwards, who each finished with 17 points. Lehman added 15 rebounds and five blocks while Edwards nearly missed a double-double grabbing nine boards and dishing three assists.
The Lions got off to a strong start early jumping out to a 12-9 lead after the first five minutes, before Hays went on a 8-0 run to take a 17-12 lead. Southern responded with a 12-7 run to knot the game at 24-24 with ten minutes to play after a pair of free throws from Hartzog. The two teams stayed neck and neck throughout the rest of the half before Kristen Hanna hit a jumper from the top of key to give the Lions their first lead in over nine minutes. Clay added a layup to give the Lions a three-point advantage, but the Tigers would close the first half on a 8-0 run to take a 39-34 lead into halftime. Southern shot 35.7% (10-28) from the field in the first half, but were 12-13 (92.3) from the free-throw line while Fort Hays State hit 56% (14-25) from the field, but shot only 56.3% (9-16) from the free-throw line.
Coming out of the locker room looking to cool off the hot-shooting Tigers, Southern scored the first four points of the second half on layups from Clay and Jones to pull within one. After a layup and free throw from the Tigers pushed their lead back to four, Jones nailed a three-pointer and Jones knocked down a pair of free throws to take their first lead of the second half going up 45-44 with 16:13 to play. Fort Hays proceeded to go on a 19-10 run to take a 63-55 edge, their largest lead of the game with 8:39 to play, before the Lions made some timely plays and found the hot-hand from the free-throw line to propel a comeback.
Pulling within a point at 66-65 with 5:21 to go, Soyez nailed her second three-pointer of the game to give the Lions a 68-66 lead, one they would not relinquish winning by a final of 76-71. The Lions shot 7-for-12 from the free-throw in the final 3:18. The Lions held Hays to 34.6% (9-26) shooting from the field in the final 20 minutes.
The Lions attempted a season-high 43 free throws connecting on 32 for a 74.4% clip. The Lions outrebounded the MIAA leaders in boards 43-39, while forcing the Tigers' into a season-high 20 turnovers and nabbed 11 steals. Southern finished 20-of-53 (.377) from the field and 4-of-9 (.444) from three point range. They also outscored Hays 31-11 off of turnovers and 18-5 on second chance points.
Southern hits the road on Wednesday traveling to Central Oklahoma (7-5, 2-3) in Edmond to take on the Bronchos at 5:30 p.m.