Through everything the Griffon basketball teams have had happen to them — suspensions, injuries, overtime losses and buzzer beater misses — both teams have one last shot to make the MIAA Tournament March 1 through 4 in Kansas City, Mo.
Both teams play at MWSU Fieldhouse in the Griffons’ final two games of the season. Wednesday, Central Missouri comes to town, and Saturday, Southwest Baptist pays a visit.
By the time this issue comes out, the men’s team should know its fate. They must win both games plus help to make the tournament.
The women, who have a slightly easier route to the tourney, don’t necessarily need a win against Central. If the Griffons bring in the win, they still have to play the Bearcats and win to go to the tournament. A loss to Central, the same result must occur — a win against Southwest.
“It’s almost like a play-in game,” coach Lynn Plett said. “We have to play good defense. I think that’s the biggest thing we’ve got away from, at least for 40 minutes of not playing really good, solid defense at least for an entire ball game.”
Both teams sit at 4-14 in the conference. Southwest defeated Missouri Western 100-99 in overtime back in January. If a split occurs (Western wins Saturday), then Western receives the tie-breaker based off the win over Fort Hays State. If Southwest brings in the win, it wins the tie-breaker based off a 2-0 sweep at the hand of the Griffons.
For Western women, it’s simple — win Saturday and you’re in.
As for the men, they kept a slim hope alive with a victory against Truman State Saturday. The 74-70 win moves the Griffons to two games back of the No. 8 seed currently occupied by Emporia State.
If Western defeats both Central and Southwest — two teams it has previously lost to — then the Griffons finish the season at 5-15.
That won’t matter unless help arrives.
Emporia must lose both games it plays to finish 5-15. The Griffons own the tie-breaker because head-to-head they are 1-1, but the Griffons defeated the higher seeded team (Missouri Southern).
Western still needs help. Because it was swept by Lincoln, if the Blue Tigers win one more game then they own any tie-breaker. Western also needs to have Truman lose its home finale against Hays in order for the Bulldogs to lose out on an eighth seed.
However, a loss Wednesday, a Lincoln win or an Emporia win, none of this matters.
“It’s not who you play, it’s when you play them,” coach Tom Smith said. “[Against Truman] our kids played really well. We controlled the tempo. We went in, and for the first time and hit some free throws late, and did not give up the lead late.”
The men lose three seniors — T.J. Johnson, Lavonte Douglas and Deionta Mitchell. The women lose three as well — Jessica Koch, Brittany Casady and Alex Noble. Koch needs 40 points to become the all-time career leader in points.
Brittany Griswold will not return this season, as the junior will remain in a boot for the next four weeks.
Nontheless, Saturday’s game against Southwest should be an unpredictable night for both sports.