After defeating the rival Northwest Bearcats last Saturday, the Griffons will play for a share of the MIAA title on Wednesday against the Washburn Ichabods.
Although the Bearcats are last in the MIAA, the rivalry game between Northwest and Western was still a battle.
The Griffons lost the lead only twice in the game, early in the first quarter and late in the second, but kept the Bearcats at bay the majority of the game. Northwest did not make it easy on Western, constantly cutting down double-digit leads and pulling closer to the Griffons. In the end Western held on to defeat the rivals 66-59, wrapping up their regular season road schedule and pushing their overall record to 24-2.
Forward Mhykeah Baez led the Griffons in scoring and rebounds while posting a double double with 18 points and 12 rebounds. Guard LaQuinta Jefferson was second in scoring with 16 points, followed by forward Mili Koyamainavure with 12.
Head coach Rob Edmisson has admired Baez’s play during the season.
“She is special, and right now if we were giving out rewards she’d probably be our most improved player of the season, without a doubt,” Edmisson said.
The win over Northwest tied the school record for most regular season wins in program history and it gives Western the opportunity to play for a share of the conference title when Washburn visits the Fieldhouse.
“It’s championship week, with that comes a lot of understanding of where we’re at and what we’ve got to get it done,” Edmisson said.
The Griffons will be facing an Ichabod team that they previously beat on the road 69-56, but Edmisson will not let his team take Washburn’s defense lightly.
“They’re one of the toughest defensive teams in the conference, if not in the country,” Edmisson said. “It’s going to be a battle of the boards.”
Washburn slightly out rebounds Western, averaging 39.5 rebounds per game while the Griffons average 35.9.
Although winning would bring a share of the conference title to Western, Edmisson knows the team is focused on making it solely theirs.
“Our kids aren’t in a sharing mood,” Edmisson said. “I keep saying one more [win] and they keep correcting me [with] no, it’s two more.”
With the excitement of the situation comes mystery of how the Griffons will handle situation. With the season getting closer to a win and go home setting Edmisson hopes his team will play like they have all season.
“All teams handle one and done differently,” Edmisson said. “Some people can play in that environment, some kids can’t and I don’t know how this team is with that environment.”
Championship week tips off when the Washburn Ichabods enter the Fieldhouse on Wednesday Feb. 24. With a win against the Ichabods the Griffons will face Central Missouri with a chance to win the MIAA outright.