With postseason implications at stake going into last week’s games versus Missouri Southern and against Pittsburg State, the Griffons just could not pull out the wins they so desperately needed.
The Griffons found themselves down 35-29 at halftime at Missouri Southern. Western then opened the second half on an 8-0 run—giving them the lead.
During this losing streak the Griffons have found themselves in many close games, and this one was no different. Western held a four-point lead with just under two minutes left in the game. Missouri Western had three possessions in the final minute of the game trailing by just one after Vince Fritz’s three-point basket gave Southern the lead.
Missed baskets from Aaron Emmanuel, Cole Clearman and a turnover prevented the Griffons from regaining the lead. The 74-73 loss extended the streak to six games.
“Now we gotta move on. There’s a lot more fight and a lot more effort. You just see it in these guys because they don’t give up,” Clearman said.
Clearman and TJ Evans led the Griffons with 19 points each. Joe Hamilton and Seth Bonifas each added 10 points, while Emmanuel finished with nine.
After the loss on Wednesday, the Griffons would need to find a way to win their match-up Saturday afternoon against Pittsburg State. Western held a one game lead over the Gorillas in the MIAA. The game was big in deciding who would be receiving the final spot in the MIAA tournament.
“We put together some games, we just gotta find a way to put it all together. When we figure that out, there would be no better time than this game,” Emmanuel said.
The Griffons once again found themselves in a close game–down just one at halftime. This continued throughout the entire second half. Emmanuel, who had 12 points in the game, 10 coming in the second half, was able to knock down two clutch free throws to tie the game at 63 with 20 seconds remaining.
Pittsburg State guard, Elijah Gaines, would come down the other end to score the eventual game-winning layup. With four-seconds remaining and no timeouts, Western was forced to heave the ball from midcourt, but the shot did not fall, and the Griffons suffered their seventh consecutive loss, 65-63 to the Gorillas.
With the team sitting at 7-19 overall and 3-14 in conference play, head coach Brett Weiberg has never doubted his team’s effort.
“I never expected these kids to do anything but to keep playing and to keep working. They’re playing from start to finish, and they’re doing everything I’m asking them to do,” said Weiberg said.
The Griffons will finish the regular season with home games against Lincoln University on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. and Lindenwood on Saturday at 4:00 p.m.
Western suffered a 20-point defeat to Lincoln earlier this month and a 12-point loss to Lindenwood on Feb. 2.