It was a storybook ending for the Griffon women as they beat Southwest Baptist 86-69 to seal up a spot in the MIAA tournament on senior night at MWSU Fieldhouse.
“I thought it was a really special day in a lot of ways,” coach Lynn Plett said. “We have 5 seniors on the team, and all five seniors played great throughout the entire ball game.”
After losing 11 of its past 12 games, Western needed this win to keep its season alive.
“This is the time of year when everyone is playing for the next day and if you lose you go home,” Plett said. “We are the underdog, and we need to understand that, and it’s a positive really.”
The Griffons jumped out to a 20-9 start after seniors Jessica Koch, Brittany Casady and Ashleigh Curry all hit early 3-point shots. The score was extended to 42-19 on another 3-pointer by Casady and then 44-19 on a layup by Alex Noble. Western was up 50-26 after a jumper by Koch and never looked back.
Koch led the Griffons in scoring with 24 points on 6-for-16 shooting and became the Griffons all-time leading scorer. She also grabbed nine rebounds and stole the ball six times.
Curry scored 20 points on 5-for-11 shooting and dished out three assists while Casady scored a career-high 18 points on 5-for-6 shooting, including 3-for-4 from 3-point distance and dished out three assists.
Now that there is no chance of missing the conference tournament, a weight has been lifted.
“I don’t think I realized how much pressure there really was,” Koch said. “I was losing some sleep just worried about getting to the tournament. Now we can just go out and play our game the best that we can.”
The Griffons will face Washburn in Kansas City, Mo., on March 1 in the first round of the MIAA tournament.
Western dropped the last game between the two schools 60-55 but hopes that the momentum from senior night will push them over the top in the tournament. The Griffons sit at 7-19 on the season
“We haven’t won as much, but I think we are going to start peaking in the tournament,” Koch said.
“We need to really go in relaxed,” Plett said. “I thought we played really loose; if we can maintain that kind of confidence with the intensity, then anything can happen in this tournament.”