For the first time since 2010 Western won its first postseason game with a commanding 70-54 win over the Washburn Ichabods on Tuesday.
With the win the Griffons also became the first No. 11 seed to win an MIAA Tournament game.
Head coach Brett Weiberg is happy that his team was able to experience this win.
“It feels good, I’m very proud of the kids,” Weiberg said. “I really felt like we punched hard first and rode that momentum the rest of the way.”
Western controlled the game from the start when guard Cole Clearman gave them their first lead 13 seconds into the game by sinking a three-pointer. From there the Griffons never looked back. They pushed their biggest lead of the first half to 14 points with a score of 20-6 and ended up going into halftime with an 11 point 28-17 lead.
Washburn tried their hardest to cut into Western’s lead when they dropped the Griffons 11 point lead to a nine point 28-19 gap. The Griffons countered with an 11-0 run thanks to three shots from beyond the arch by Clearman and two converted free throws by forward Kevin Thomas to go up 39-19.
A twenty-point lead would not be the largest for Western. They held dominating 21-point lead three times before putting the Ichabods away 70-54.
The Griffon defense forced 17 Ichabod turnovers, turning those plays into 25 points.
Clearman led all scorers with 20 points by making 6-11 from three point land and 7-13 field goals overall.
In the last part of the season Clearman has gotten hot and Weiberg attributes his play to determination.
“He’s really worked on his game since Christman break, trying to dig himself out of his slump and he’s done a fantastic job,” Weiberg said. “It’s what it takes when you not getting the job done like you want to, you have to go back and work and I really think it’s paying off for him. I’m proud of him.”
Western still has a tough road ahead of them as they face the Missouri Southern Lions in the second round of the tournament.
The Lions defeated the Griffons early in the season at the Fieldhouse 85-72 and again in Joplin 94-71 and they are currently the No. 3 seed in the tournament.
Weiberg knows that, in order to be prepared for their next game, the team can not take any time off.
“We’ll get back to work and start getting the kids minds on Missouri Southern and try to get better at what we’re doing,” Weiberg said. “It’s kinds of a two way street, get better at us and also get ourselves prepared for what Missouri Southern is going to try to do to us.”
The MIAA Tournament Friday, March 4 continues as the Griffons face the Lions.