Morning Sun
  • Big plays spark Gorillas

  • The Pittsburg State women took a 15-point lead in the first half and had enough big plays in them to hold on for a 66-63 win Wednesday night over Missouri Southern at the Leggett & Platt Athletic Center.

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  • The Pittsburg State women took a 15-point lead in the first half and had enough big plays in them to hold on for a 66-63 win Wednesday night over Missouri Southern at the Leggett & Platt Athletic Center.
    “Southern is probably the most improved team from the beginning of the year to now,” Pitt State head coach Lane Lord said. “We knew they were going to make a run. They have a good team, they’re very well-coached and their best player, Erin Rice, is one of the best players in the country when she plays at her highest level. We knew it was going to be a challenge.”
    At the 13:01 mark of the first half, Pitt State had committed four turnovers and after the next break in the action at 9:52, Pitt State still had four turnovers and its lead jumped from 9-6 to 18-8. The Lions went nearly 5 minutes without a field goal and by that point, the Gorillas had built a 21-8 advantage.
    Kylie Gafford gave Pitt State a 31-17 lead with a short basket and Missouri Southern came roaring back with seven unanswered before intermission, clawing the Pitt State lead to 31-24. Tee Singleton drained a 3 and Nicole Hartzog made a pair of layups. Meanwhile, Pitt State scuffled on its offensive end and went scoreless the last 2:07.
    The Gorillas had a 11-3 turnover disadvantage at halftime, somewhat negating a hot shooting first half overall from the field — 13-24, 54 percent. Sophomore forward Lizzy Jeronimus led all scorers with 12 first-half points on a perfect 7-7 shooting performance: 5-5 field goals and 2-2 free throws. Southern had the wrong answer for No. 42.
    By the first media timeout of the second half, the Lions had not cooled down and narrowed the Gorilla lead to 35-31 on a pair of baskets from senior Erin Rice and a 3 by former Fort Scott High School and FSCC standout Jolee Sharp. Pitt State senior Drew Roberts helped Pitt State keep its lead with shot clock beating shots on consecutive possessions, including a flip shot in the nick of time.
    Southern kept up the heat with an old-fashioned three-point play by Sharese Jones and Singleton tied the game at 37 on a 3. That 37-all score did not last very long as Pitt State redshirt freshman Cathy Brugman sank a 3 on the next possession to regain a 40-37 lead.
    Bad news for Pitt State: Lauren Brown picked up her fourth personal on an offensive foul with 13:29 remaining and her freshman counterpart Gafford picked up hers at the 9:06 mark.
    The Gorillas, already without sophomore Hailey Roderique for the season with a knee injury, have a deep squad but few teams can afford foul trouble or more injuries to key players.
    “How about the rest of our team stepping up?” Lord asked. “Lizzy playing the 5, Cathy Brugman playing the 5. We had our role players step up for us this time.”
    Page 2 of 2 - With its two bigs in foul trouble, Pitt State went small and the Gorillas went on a 5-0 run with a field goal by Jeronimus and a 3 by Roberts for a 50-43 lead with 7:38 left.
    Brown came back in after Southern’s timeout at 7:09 and promptly fouled out at 6:19 when she was called for a foul on Sharp. No. 24 went scoreless on 0-1 shooting and grabbed six boards in 8 minutes.
    Pitt State returned to its small ball for a spell with four guards and Jeronimus and then brought in Gafford for the stretch run.
    With a 55-52 lead, Pitt State received six consecutive points by Jeronimus on a 3 and and an old-fashioned three-point play. The Gorillas led 61-52 with 3:09 remaining.
    Brigit Hesser placed the final nail in the coffin with a jumper as the shot clock expired with 34 seconds left. Hesser gave PSU a 66-61 lead with her only field goal of the game.
    “She deserved it,” Lord said of the big shot Hesser made. “She took that charge earlier. She’s just a tough player. Kind of waited her turn here. She’s a good player.”
    Jeronimus, under the weather, scored a game-high 24 points in 26 minutes and missed just one shot all evening. Head coach Lord gave her the Michael Jordan speech on Wednesday and the MIAA’s leading scorer delivered a stellar performance the Gorillas needed.
    “Any time you’ve got Lizzy Jeronimus, you’ve got a chance to win because she’s pretty good,” Lord said. “Lizzy was sick tonight. All she did was do what All-Americans do. She puts you on her back, scores 24 and makes great passes for wide-open shots.”
    Pitt State outrebounded Southern 35-24 with the help of role players like Y'Cedria Devers, who led the Gorillas with seven rebounds. Brown and Gafford finished with a combined 11 boards despite foul trouble.
    Hesser contributed four points and four assists in 19 minutes, as well as taking a jaw-dropping or jaw-breaking charge on Rice.
    Roberts scored double figures with 13 points and bench spark Westhoff added eight.
    Pitt State finished its first three-game MIAA road stand 2-1 and improved to 11-4, 5-2 MIAA. Missouri Southern dropped to 10-4, 4-2.
    In other MIAA games Wednesday night, Fort Hays State defeated Southwest Baptist 64-55, Washburn defeated Truman State 52-47, Central Missouri defeated Nebraska-Kearney 68-63, Northeastern State defeated Central Oklahoma 54-53 and Missouri Western defeated Lindenwood 65-59.
    The Lady Blues of Washburn remain in the MIAA lead with a 5-0 mark (11-2 overall) and Pitt State finds itself in a tie with Missouri Western, Truman State and Northeastern State at 5-2. Central Missouri stands in second at 5-1; Pitt State denied Southern its opportunity to improve to 5-1 in the ultra-competitive MIAA.

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