Griffons try to make up ground against Southwest Baptist

Western looks to break the losing streak they have been riding since the new year began on Saturday against the Bearcats of Southwest Baptist. Both teams enter the matchup on a five-game losing streak, so the chance to snap that streak is what both teams are setting their eyes on for this game. The Griffons have hit a rough patch since the start of the new year, facing three top 10 opponents in a four-game span. But, while their luck may seem to be down, they've been proving themselves offensively, hanging with each team and keeping the final score within 10 points. A final score of 57-56 against No. 1 Emporia State has been helping the Griffons stay motivated and continue fighting back. "We've got to learn to stay away from that deficit, so that when we go make big runs, now we're up 12 instead of coming back from 12," head coach Rob Edmisson said. However, the Bearcats have also been struggling recently. They have lost all but one of their last five games by double-digits, including a 23-point loss to Eckerd College. Guard LaQuinta Jefferson leads Western with 22.1 points per game. She is one of two Griffons averaging in double-figures. On the offensive side of the ball, guard Chelsea Dewey leads the team with 54 assists. On the defensive end, three Griffons average just over five rebounds per game. "[Edmisson tells us to] keep fighting, keep pushing," Dewey said. "We've got to get stops." For Southwest Baptist, Brook Duncan is the only Bearcat averaging in double-digits for points per game at 13.2. Dilonna Johnson is adding to their offense by accumulating 40 assists so far this season. For their defense, Duncan leads the Bearcats with 4.7 rebounds per game. The Griffons are hoping a win this weekend will help them start the last half of the season strong and on a positive note. Guard Ariana Novak, who is second on the team in steals, says the team tries to stay focused on what's coming up instead of what's behind them. "We're trying to focus on what we're working on in practice," Novak said. On Saturday, Jan. 17, the Griffons will head to Bolivar, Mo., to face off against Southwest Baptist. Tipoff is set for 1:30 p.m.

Early deficit leads to top five loss

Chelsea Dewey
After suffering a heartbreaking one-point loss to No. 1 Emporia State University, Western again fell short against No. 5 Pittsburg State University Gorillas, losing 81-71. The loss dropped the Griffons to a five game losing streak, while the Gorillas win gave them an eight game win streak. The game remained close midway through the first half, with the Griffons down 15-20, until the Gorillas began a 14-0 run to increase their lead to 34-15 with just over five minutes left before halftime. Although Western was able to stop the run, they went into half time with a substantial 15 point deficit as Pittsburg State led 44-29. The Griffons finally struck a rhythm from behind the arc in the second half and stepped up their defense to shorten the Gorillas lead. Western was charged with a technical foul, but they were able to pull within seven points with a minute left in the game. They were not able to gain the lead and lost 81-71 although they out-scored Pittsburg State 42-37 in the second half. A key to Western’s loss was their struggle to contain the Gorilla’s First Team All-American Lizzy Jeronimus, who went 7-of-11 from the field and 13-of-14 from the free-throw line for 27 total points. Despite the loss, Griffon guard LaQuinta Jefferson made 12 of her 18 shots, including four 3-pointers, to lead the Griffons with 29 points. Head coach Rob Edmisson has a solution to eliminating an early deficit and to avoid playing from behind. “We need to stay away form that period where we play so poorly and dig such a deep hole that is it hard to get out of,” Edmisson said. “If we can maintain through that and play better through those gaps then we have a chance to win games. Many players, including guard Ariana Novak, believe the team needs to work on fighting hard early in the game. “We have to work on starting off the game fighting and pushing as hard as we can so we are not always playing from behind,” Novak said. After losing close games to two top five teams in a row, the team understands that not playing hard for a full 40 minutes will result in a loss according to guard Chelsea Dewey. “It is the [most fun] right now when you are playing the best teams in the nation, but it is hard taking a loss like that,” Dewey said, “We do it to ourselves when we are not getting stops and not playing a full 40 minutes of basketball.” The Griffons have many chances to end the losing streak, including a home game against the University of Central Missouri on Wednesday, Jan. 14, before going on the road to play Southwest Baptist University on Saturday, Jan. 17.

Strong offense leads Griffons to early success

The Griffons have found early success, and a 5-1 record, through the first six games of the 2014-2015 season. After a close exhibition loss to the University of Missouri, Western began their regular season against the Robert Morris College Eagles in the opening match of the Quincy Classic. With 10 minutes remaining in the first half against the Eagles, the Griffons held on to a 24-23 lead. The game seemed to be a defensive match up until Western began their offensive attack, outscoring their opponent 37-13, leading to a 61-36 score at halftime. Western went on to out-score Robert Morris 49-13 in the second half to win the game 110-49. The Griffons found themselves in a close game during the second and final round of the Quincy Classic against the Quincy University Lady Hawks. Western went into halftime down by four, with a score of 26-30. At the beginning of the second half the Griffons gained an eight-point lead until the Lady Hawks compiled a 13-3 run to regain the lead. Western would not be able to gain the lead, resulting in a 70-77 loss. During the home opener against the Rockhurst University Hawks, the Griffons were able to bounce back from their previous loss. Both teams entered halftime tied, but Western was able to secure a lead in the second half. The Hawks kept the game close, but the Griffons were successful in the end, gaining a 71-69 win and improving to 2-1 on the year. Western continued to defend their home court against the MidAmerica Nazarene University Pioneers. The game stayed close going into halftime with the Griffons winning 37-31, but in the second half, they pushed their lead to 17 points. The Pioneers attempted a comeback, but fell short, giving Western a 76-69 win over MidAmerica. The home stretch continued into the Holiday Inn Express Classic, where the Griffons faced both the Evangel University Crusaders and the Maryville University Saints.  Western had a successful showing for the inaugural year of the tournament with a 75-41 victory over the Crusaders and a 74-64 win over the Saints, elevating their record to 5-1. Griffon head coach Rob Edmisson attributes the team's success to their off season dedication and their new transfer talent. "Our preseason workouts are extensive, they are really no different than a major division I program," Edmisson said. "We also heavily recruited players that have a high offensive skill set and all of our transfer students have already made an impact on our team offensively." Western's offensive abilities have led to the team averaging 79.3 points per game and 78 total assists. They also have four players that have scored over 50 points including one player that has already scored over 100 points. Although the offense is running at a high caliber, the Griffons' defense needs to improve in order for the team to be successful later in the season, according to coach Edmisson. "We have showed glimpses in the last couple games defensively and once the defense comes along I think we will have the chance to be pretty competitive," Edmisson said. The Griffons will have another chance for an offensive show case on Saturday, Dec. 6 against Fort Hays State University.      

High powered teams clash in MIAA opener

Western will put their four-game win streak on the line, as they begin MIAA play against the Fort Hays State University Tigers. Through the first six games of the season, Western compiled a 5-1 record including a 110-49 win against Robert Morris College and a four game home win streak. During their success, the Griffons are outscoring their opponents 476-369 and are averaging 79.3 points per game. The Tigers also have a 5-1 record after six games with a big 120-39 win over McPherson College and is currently holding on to their own four-game win streak. Through the beginning of the season, Fort Hays is outscoring their opponents 501-317 and averaging 83.5 points per game. Although the Griffons struggled in last year's MIAA opener versus the Tigers, the team hopes their early season momentum will result in a positive outcome in this year's match. Along with physical preparation, Western has focused on mentally preparing for Fort Hays and the rest of the MIAA, according to head coach Rob Edmisson. "We have been getting our players to understand the intensity level and physicality of the league play," Edmisson said. "This league is brutal, from top to bottom everyone is capable of beating everyone." The Griffons will rely on the offensive intensity of guards LaQuinta Jefferson and Sarafina Handy who have scored a total of 113 and 81 points through the first six games of the season. They will also depend on a stout defensive performance from Tiara Hall, who leads the team with 45 rebounds. Fort Hays will lean on the consistent and dominate play of 6 foot 4 inch center Kate Lehman. Lehman leads the Tigers in 12 statistical categories including points, with 125, and rebounds with 63. Coach Edmisson is making the team ready to contain Lehman's presence and control her strong play style. "This is a hard match up for us be cause she [Lehman] is so big and agile," Edmisson said. "We have to create a game plan to contain her and to know where she is going to be at on the floor." Although the Tigers will be a tough opponent, coach Edmisson still has high aspirations for his team. "We are not limiting ourselves with how high we can finish," Edmisson said. "We want to put ourselves a position to play a first round home game and have a chance to go to Kansas City and play in the tournament." Western travels to Hays, Kansas to battle Fort Hays State in the opening game of conference play on Saturday, Dec. 6 at 2 p.m.            

Women basketball prime for a championship push

Basketball season has return and both teams have kicked their exhibition games off against their respective opponents. Although I am excited about the men and their season, I am interested in how this whole Edmisson experiment will work out. What’s the Edmisson experiment? Well, it’s just something I came up with to explain his recruiting ability. Edmisson is in his third year and he has made it known that the losing mentality the women’s basketball team once had before, will no longer be tolerated since his arrival. In his first year, he revamped the roster; adding and replacing players that could help bring a winning attitude to the program. In his second year, he continued what he started and put together a competitive team that barely missed the playoffs. This year seems a little different. Edmisson continued to impress with his recruiting, but I believe that this might be his best class yet. They have easily improved in every position this year. Edmisson continued to build on his guard play, while also adding some size and athleticism that will be able to compete in the MIAA. Guards LaQuinta Jefferson, Sarafina Handy and Chelsea Dewey are all-versatile and will be threats early on in the season. Keep an eye on Jefferson; a player I believe will be a playmaker for the Griffons. Forwards Mhykeah Baez and Mariah Jordan will add to the position that the Griffons may be lacking at the most. Size has always been a problem for Western teams in general, when it comes to basketball. This year might be different because of the depth. Not to mention, Western has five returners from a season ago and if they can get the chemistry together early, this could be a big season for the squad. Finally, the return of guard Ariana Novak is something I have been anticipating. Last year, she impressed me early on, but a knee injury sidelined her. Novak is a sharpshooter and helps with the spacing on the court. With those big forwards down low and quick guards pushing the ball, this women’s squad has a chance to impress the entire conference.