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  • Mules get revenge on PSU

  • Pittsburg State ended Central Missouri’s season last year in the MIAA Tournament Quarterfinals.

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  • Pittsburg State ended Central Missouri’s season last year in the MIAA Tournament Quarterfinals.
    Central Missouri returned the favor Thursday night with a 69-63 victory over Pitt State at Municipal Auditorium.
    The Mules used a 11-0 second half scoring blitz in 99 seconds and 24 points off turnovers to advance into the semifinals on Saturday. Central also outscored Pitt State 35-26 inside-the-paint during a game when the MIAA rivals combined for 33 missed 3-point shots and 73 missed field goals.
    “Congratulations to Central on a hard-fought, very physical battle,” Pitt State head coach Kevin Muff said. “It was a game of runs, back-and-forth offensively and defensively. We ended up on the short end of it. Central made some very nice offensive plays down the stretch in the paint, iso’ed us a little bit and got us into some trouble. We weren’t able to answer offensively what they did to us. Give them all the credit. They deserve it tonight. They outplayed us but I was very proud of my team and the way they competed.”
    “It certainly was a hard-fought game by both teams,” Central head coach Kim Anderson said. “I don’t know if it was particularly pretty but I thought both teams just played their guts out. . . . I’m real proud of my guys for sticking together. We had a lot of foul trouble. We had to mix-and-match lineups. We got some guys (Matt Webb, Reggie Stallings) back from injury. That certainly gave us a big boost. A great win for our team. We fought hard and beat a really good basketball team.”
    The 16:31 mark of the first half was a key time for the Mules. Alex Dean made a circus shot, created the foul and hit the free throw for an old-fashioned three-point play and 10-6 Central lead. Also, senior big man Matt Webb entered the fray and he put in six points on a variety of interior moves to give Central a 16-8 lead with 12:27 left. This lead would be the Mules’ largest of the half.
    Pitt State freshmen Kaleb Porter and Denton Hays drew the Gorillas to 16-13 on a Porter 3 and a Hays tip dunk off a Porter miss. Ryan Magdziarz of Central extended the lead to 19-13 on another old-fashioned three-point play.
    The third Pitt State freshman, guard-forward Jake Bullard, sparked the Gorillas with eight first half points, including a big three, and senior forward JaVon McGee tied it up at 20 on a follow of a Porter miss, the first tie score since 4-all at the 17:42 mark. It was 13:29 between tie scores.
    With the Mules on a major offensive funk on their end, McGee gave Pitt State its first lead — 22-20 — on a pair of free throws and Porter made it a five-point lead on his second trifecta of the contest. McGee had eight points, seven rebounds in the first 20 minutes.
    Page 2 of 3 - Central senior guard Widgett Washington shot the Mules back into a 25-all score with five consecutive points and the teams exchanged the lead the final 2 minutes with Central taking a 29-28 lead into intermission due to late free throws by Dominique Long with 26.2 ticks before halftime.
    Seven Mule first-half turnovers kept Pitt State in the game.
    The first 4-plus minutes after halftime was marked by inside play — five points by McGee and four by A.J. Adams for Pitt State and six by Dean for Central. The teams reached 37-all at the first media timeout.
    “JaVon McGee, great player,” Webb said. “I’ve been playing against him since I was in kindergarten and he’s just a big bruiser. He’s athletic, he’s got that stepback, he’s got all the moves. He’s tough to score on and it’s hard to get deep in the post. All our coaches try and tell us to get two feet in the lane and it’s a job down there, a battle. He came to play but it was just our night tonight for bigs.
    “Alex (Dean) played great. Before the game, we were talking about there’s only one of him and there’s three of us.”
    Pitt State trailed 39-37 when Reggie Stallings of Central was flagged for a flagrant foul.
    Senior guard Marky Nolen, MIAA Defensive Player of the Year, made the free throws for a tie but Porter missed a 3 and Rico Pierrevilus committed an offensive foul on the rebound and on the Central end, Washington blanked on consecutive free throws, nullifying any potential advantage for either team.
    McGee put the Gorillas on top 41-39 with points No. 14 and No. 15 of the night.
    Central senior Lance Beckwith knocked down a 3 and Central led 42-41 entering the second media timeout at 11:51.
    Two seconds out of timeout, Porter made his third trifecta of the night but the two-point lead was once again short-lived as Central answered with nine straight points — Webb basket, Magdziarz 3, Washington layup and Charles Hammork slam, the latter two baskets each off Pitt State turnovers. Central led 51-44 at the 10:01 mark, scoring its nine straight in 86 seconds.
    Out of a Pitt State timeout, Washington made it a 11-0 run with another steal and score on a layup. The Mules finished with 11 points in 99 seconds.
    McGee stopped the bleeding with a pair of foul shots, Pitt State trailing 53-46.
    The Gorillas went over 5 minutes without a field goal (11:49-6:43) but consecutive baskets from Adams (who ended the drought) and Bullard, plus his free throw for a three-point play, made it 59-55.
    On a wild and crazy possession highlighted by multiple offensive rebounds, Porter swished two free throws for a 59-57 deficit with 5:09 remaining.
    Page 3 of 3 - Webb delivered an old-fashioned three-point play for a 62-57 Central lead after Pitt State missed a game-tying opportunity.
    McGee scored four straight to get the Gorillas down 63-61 with 90 seconds left.
    However, another costly Pitt State turnover resulted in a Hammork steal and slam, Central ahead by four, 65-61.
    In his final Pitt State game, McGee lead all players with 22 points and 11 rebounds, and led the Gorillas with two assists.
    “As Coach was saying in the locker room, as long as we left it all out on the court, I honestly don’t have any regrets,” McGee said. “We gave it the best shot that we could, just wish that we had made some plays here and there. Overall, congratulations to Central Missouri. We just came up short.”
    Muff talked about all four of his seniors after the game — McGee, Nolen, Courtney Ingram and Rico Pierrevilus.
    “We’re not going to replace the four seniors that we have with any better team-type guys,” Muff said. “I’m going to hate to see them go. . . . I put JaVon on the spot (last year) after we lost the final game against Washburn last year and he kept that. He promised that we would be back here and I know it’s too early for him. He made that promise at this press conference.
    “I know it’s an early exit for him and the other seniors but he came back and he didn’t have to. He’s still hurt. He’s going have to have surgery on that shoulder but he laid it all out there. I’m very proud of him. I’m very proud of all my seniors for what they did for our program. Like I said, you leave it better than when you got there and they did. Every year, it’s gotten better. They’ve honored what the seniors before them have done and very proud of that.”
    Adams, Bullard and Porter each added 11 points for the Gorillas, which end their season 18-10.
    Webb led three Central scorers in double figures with 15, while Dean and Washington both picked up 12 for the Mules (20-7).

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