Post season in doubt after 12th conference loss

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Ashleigh Curry saw the ball ring out of the hoop with one last chance to win the game.

Curry slithered through Northwest Missouri State’s crowded defense and snatched the offensive board, but the senior’s shot didn’t fall as Missouri Western dropped a close overtime loss to Northwest Saturday at Bearcat Arena, 72-71. It was the Griffons’ 12th MIAA loss which keeps them tied for the eighth spot in the conference.

Northwest coach Gene Steinmeyer has preached to his team and to anybody that will listen that the Bearcats still have a shot at making the post-season tournament, despite the last place the Bearcats currently occupy. With that in mind, his team fought for every minute of the game against the Griffons, knowing that a win would move the last-place team to within a game of the eighth seed.

Western took the trip up north with the thought of winning a fifth game and taking a big jump into the final slot. Now, with only four games left, Western (4-12), Southwest Baptist (4-13), Northwest (3-13) and Missouri Southern (3-14) all look to take advantage of other teams’ miscues in order to have the opportunity of making it to Kansas City.

“We haven’t been playing really well on the road,” Western coach Lynn Plett said. “The loss was a really tough one for us. We got off to a really slow start, didn’t shoot the ball well early and [Northwest] did.”

The Bearcats used momentum off of a slow start by the Griffons to score points. Northwest started the game on a 15-2 run, with four different Bearcats providing points. Western shook off the rough beginning and jumped back in the game with its own 12-1 run, highlighted by a pair of jumpers by Alicia Bell.

Senior starters Jessica Koch and Curry didn’t have much going in the first half, as Western picked up its first lead 17-16 when reserve forward Stacey Mgbike knocked down two free throws. Northwest grabbed a 28-21 lead after that, but the Griffons went on a 15-5 run to take a 36-33 lead into the half.

“Jess is going to have nights like that,” Plett said. “The positive thing that can continue to get better is Alicia Bell was much more aggressive offensively and took more shots. I talked to her about two weeks ago and told her she needed to take about 10 shots a game.”

The second half continued the back-and-forth contest between the two rivals. Neither team had more than a five-point lead, but the Griffons grabbed a nice three-point advantage after an Alex Noble jumper dropped in, giving her team a 58-55 lead.

Northwest went on its own 6-0 run to put itself up by three, before Kallie Schoonover knocked down a trey to tie the game at 61. Both teams swapped two points in the final minute as a 63-63 deadlock tie went down to the final buzzer, but Koch’s jumper fell short as did Noble’s offensive putback.

The Bearcats took a 69-68 lead with 1 minute, 31 seconds to play in the extra quarter, before Schoonover connected on her second 3-pointer. Shelly Martin, who had been hot all night, matched Schoonover’s 3 as the Bearcats took a 72-71 lead with less than 30 seconds to play.

Schoonover then missed on a long 3, and before the game clock expired, Curry rebounded and missed on her attempt, giving the Bearcats the victory.

“It just didn’t go in,” Plett said. “It really came down to our last defensive possession in the overtime. All we had to do was get a defensive rebound and probably would have won the ball game with 12 seconds to go. Unfortunately we let them get an offensive rebound and they ended up making a 3.”

Martin finished with 15 points, one shy of the team lead which went to Abby Henry (16). Western’s Koch finished with 12 points, just as she did in the teams previous meeting — a for a season low — on 4-for-14 shooting. Curry had 13 and Bell had a game-high 19, and also dished out seven assists to help her team.

This was the second meeting between the two teams, as Western won on Jan. 4, 62-51.

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