EMPORIA — A fast start wasn’t enough for No. 3 Pittsburg State women’s basketball to get the best of No. 9 Emporia State.
The Gorillas fell 77-67 to the Hornets Wednesday at White Auditorium after a double-digit lead in the first half dissolved to one possession by the intermission, with ESU taking the lead early in the second half and holding on until the final horn.
Pitt State (16-2, 8-1 MIAA) suffered its second loss of the season, both of which came at the hands of Emporia State (15-2, 6-2 MIAA). The first non-conference matchup between the Gorillas and Hornets came on Dec. 31 at John Lance Arena, with ESU taking a 78-70 road win.
PSU shot 40.7 percent (22-54) from the field and 27.8 percent (5-18) from 3-point range, while the Hornets shot 51.1 percent (23-45) from the field and 57.1 percent (8-14) from long range.
Pitt State finished with four players scoring in double figures, led by Brenlee McPherson’s 18 points on 6-of-9 shooting.
Mikaela Burgess added 16 points, five rebounds and two steals.
Paige Lungwitz and Haydn Herlocker each added 11 points in the loss. Lungwitz had three steals and a pair of boards, while Herlocker had a team-high four assists, three rebounds and two assists.
Emporia State’s Kelly Moten led all scorers with 28 points on 8-of-15 shooting, including four 3-pointers.
Addie Lackey scored 20 points, grabbed five rebounds and dished four assists.
Kathryn Flott finished the win with a double-double, scoring 10 points and pulling down 11 rebounds, while Kyrstie Miller scored 10, had nine boards and four blocked shots for the Hornets.
Pitt State was outrebounded 37-27, but won the turnover battled 21-15.
Free throws played a key role in the Gorilla loss, as PSU made 18-of-34 shots from the charity stripe, while ESU connected on 23-of-30 attempts from the line.
Emporia State cut a 10-point first-half deficit to one possession by the intermission, and took control of the contest with an 8-0 run to start the third.
Lackey led the way for ESU out of the break, knocking down three of the Hornets’ first four baskets to give her team a 37-31 lead with 7:22 to play in the third period.
Moten connected from the perimeter and Miller hit a pair from the stripe to put ESU up eight, 42-34, with less than five minutes to play in the period.
Burgess cut the lead down to four following a three-point play with 50 seconds remaining, but Moten answered with a three-point play of her own to send the Hornets into the final quarter with a 51-44 advantage.
Miller hit a pair of 3-pointers sandwiched around a basket by Lungwitz for the Hornets to push the lead to 11 with 7:50 to play.
Pitt State got a 3-pointer from Burgess followed by a score inside by Brenlee McPherson to cut the lead to five, 68-63, with 3:40 on the clock.
That was as close as the Gorilla women would get to the lead, as Moten answered with a three-point play and a 3-pointer with 2:27 to play to put the Hornets back up 11, 74-36, and in the driver’s seat over the remaining minutes of game action.
Pitt State led by 10 points twice in the first half before the Hornets closed the final four minutes of the second quarter on a 14-6 run to cut the lead to one possession, 31-29, by the intermission.
The Gorilla women kicked off the contest between the MIAA rivals with a 17-7 lead after the first quarter.
Herlocker had a pair of 3-pointers in the opening period as the catalyst for the run, which saw Madison Northcutt get started early with four points.
Emporia made a run at the lead starting at the 3:42 mark in the second period, scoring eight unanswered on a Megan Holloway score inside and back-to-back 3-pointers by Moten to trim PSU’s lead to 25-23.
The PSU lead reach four points, 31-27, on a triple from Lungwitz with 22 seconds left, but the Hornets got a Moten drive for a score with eight seconds left to get ESU within two by halftime.
Pitt State is in action next at Washburn for a 5 p.m. tip on Jan. 21.
-- Lucas Davis is the sports editor of the Pittsburg Morning Sun. E-mail him at email@example.com and follow him on twitter @LDsportswriter.