Using football vernacular, the William Jewell Cardinals dialed up an all-out blitz Wednesday evening on the Pittsburg State Gorillas at Whetzel Court/John Lance Arena.



The Gorillas did not handle the blitz very well on both ends of the court for the majority of the first half, trailing 20-4 at the 12-minute, 30-second mark.

Using football vernacular, the William Jewell Cardinals dialed up an all-out blitz Wednesday evening on the Pittsburg State Gorillas at Whetzel Court/John Lance Arena.

The Gorillas did not handle the blitz very well on both ends of the court for the majority of the first half, trailing 20-4 at the 12-minute, 30-second mark.

Behind 30-13 with 7:13 remaining first half, Pitt State turned on the jets and clawed back to only down 39-33 at halftime en route to a 68-66 loss as the Gorillas could never gain their first lead of the game despite their best efforts.

“Give credit to William Jewell,” Pitt State head coach Lane Lord said. “They came out and really out-toughed us. They were more physical and we went through the motions for a while. After that, again William Jewell made big shot after big shot when we got close. Again, tip your cap to them.”

Pitt State committed 12 first-half turnovers and missed five free throws, including two by the usually reliable Drew Roberts, who shot 87.8 percent (36-41) at the stripe last season. The Gorillas’ bench came strong with 19 points and played a central role in the halftime score; St. Paul product Morgan Westhoff led the reserves with eight points.

Meanwhile, in the first half, William Jewell made 48.1 percent (13-27) of its field goals, 44.4 percent (4-9) of its 3-pointers and 100 percent of its free throws (9-9).
The Cardinals were red hot shooting the ball and had nine assists on their 13 field goals.

That hot shooting hand turned more lukewarm for the Cardinals in the second half and senior forward Katlyn Wood earned her fourth personal foul with 15:17 left in the contest. The athletic Aerial Smith (Blue Valley product) drew her fourth at the 9:41 mark.

Despite all that, Pitt State endured its own cold shooting (especially from 3-point range) and turnovers, as William Jewell guard Jessie Wheeler dogged Pitt State point guards and her old-fashioned 3-point play gave William Jewell a 62-56 lead with 5:35 remaining.

Pitt State had it down to 47-46 at the 13:11 mark and entered the bonus at 8:26 but started bombing away from the outside rather than attacking the basket, drawing fouls and shooting free throws.

“I think two or three times we got within one or two and we’d dribble it off our foot or give it to ‘em at halfcourt and they’d go the other way,” Lord said. “The turnovers really hurt us in those situations. If we could have maybe hit that one shot and got the lead, maybe we would have been alright. The turning point in the game for us was about 8 minutes to go. I think we had them down eight fouls to two, so we’re in the bonus and we did not get to the foul line. We settled for a lot of 3-pointers, which if they go in we win by 15 but they didn’t go in. . . . It’s all a learning experience.”

Westhoff scored five unanswered and Pitt State trailed 64-61 at 2:07. Lizzy Jeronimus scored her points No. 14 and No. 15 on a driving basket and it was 64-63 William Jewell.

After the Cardinals tacked on a free throw, Jeronimus had a short one rim out and then Holly Switzer made Pitt State pay with a 3-point shot for a 68-63 lead.

Not to be outdone, Westhoff drained her fourth trey of the game for the final score of the game. Pitt State forced a William Jewell turnover with 2.5 seconds remaining and Roberts’ potential game-winning 3 at the buzzer rimmed out, epitomizing a difficult night for the Gorillas and especially Roberts, who shot 2-10 overall and 1-5 from long range.

Westhoff led all scorers with 16 points and Jeronimus finished with 15 points, four rebounds and seven turnovers — seven of her points came on free throws.

Kylie Gafford proved effective inside, coming off the bench for nine points, six rebounds, one steal and one block; during one play, her persistent defensive pressure on William Jewell center Tesia Danner caused Danner to spike the ball in frustration and earn herself a technical foul.

“I thought Kylie Gafford really played well for us tonight,” Lord said, “4-for-5 from the floor. She had nine points, played good defense.”

Behind the efforts of Westhoff and Gafford, the Pitt State bench outscored its opponents’ bench 33-20.

Wheeler paced William Jewell with 13 points, four rebounds, four assists and her dogged perimeter defense. Switzer added 12 points, four rebounds and three assists, her biggest play that late 3. Six other Cardinals scored at least five points.

Pitt State (4-1), not quite the same team since a two-week layoff, plays at home Saturday night against Quincy (Ill).

“We talked about it at the beginning of the year,” Lord said. “This team is totally different from last year. It’s going to take us a while to gel. We had a nice weekend to start the season but I knew it was a little bit of fool’s gold. It’s going to take this team a lot longer than people think just because we’ve got people playing in different roles. The leadership we had a year ago was just outstanding and we’ve got to find that leadership.”