Central Missouri vs. Pittsburg State

Michael Vander Linden / Washburn Review

The NCAA Division II Regionals at Washburn University in Topeka, Kan. saw action start off with three seed Pittsburg State University Gorillas taking on six seed University of Central Missouri Jennies. Pitt State came into the game with a 24-5 record and ranked No. 14 in the nation. Central Missouri came in with a 20-8 record.

A heartbreak was bound to happen as the teams battled back and forth giving it all they had, trying to get a first round win. The game was tied with one minute left, but it was the Lady Gorillas who topped the Jennies 74-70.

Junior Drew Roberts and Senior Brooke Conley for Pitt started the game strong as they combined for 14 of the teams first 20 points. This hot start helped the Gorillas find themselves up by 10 points after the first 10 minutes of play, 20-10.

Through the next six minutes of play, PSU held with tough defense and even stronger rebounding, enjoying a 16-8 rebound difference at one point. The Gorillas also held an eight point advantage from the free throw line, led by Freshman Lizzy Jeronimus who went 8-10 and had 12 points.

“Coach just kept telling me to drive to the rack and shots just kept falling for me,” said Jeronimus.

At the half, the Lady Gorillas maintained a massive lead, up by 19 points, 40-21. Three PSU players found themselves with more than 10 points, led by Conley, Roberts and Jeronimus. This helped Pitt to an impressive 52 percent shooting, including two three-pointers. However, Head Coach Lane Lord did not want them to let down.

“We always tell them it is a 0-0 game,” said Lord. “We just have to keep going until the final buzzer.”

The Jennies, although down, were not out. Led by senior Kaneesha Lee and senior Renae Shippy with six and five points respectively, UCM was only able to put in 32 percent of their shots, including one three-pointer. Head Coach Dave Slifer was confident his team could come back though.

“We’ve been there before against Lincoln College and the same situation happened,” said Slifer. “We decided to incorporate our press and it didn’t take long until we got the lead.”

Central Missouri started the half off just as hot as PSU started the first half. Less than five minutes into the second half, the Jennies found themselves within five points, going on a momentum changing 18-4 run.

Just two short minutes later, with 12:46 left to play, the Central Missouri Jennies took their first lead of the game, going up 45-44.

“We knew we had to play harder and that it was a new game,” said senior Alyssa Rhodes. “We took the lead and it felt great.”

A battle ensued soon after as both teams began putting in bucket after bucket. Through this action, six lead changes and four ties occurred.

It seemed although the Gorillas had finally got momentum back and took an eight point lead. However, a timely second wind was caught by the Jennies as they fought back to tie it up at 69 a piece with 2:17 left to go.

With 18 seconds left to go, Jeronimus, who scored a team high 29 points, made the go ahead layup to put the Gorillas up 72-70. With five seconds left, the Jennies had the opportunity with the ball, but after a forced pass inside, the Gorillas came up with the steal and the last second layup to put away the Central Missouri Jennies 74-70.

“I didn’t really want the last shot to go ahead,” said Jeronimus. “Coach just called my name and I went with it.”

Junior Shaquanda Wiggins led the Jennies with 15 points, followed by Senior Taylor Hanson with 13 and Rhodes with 11. Wiggins and Senior Renae Shippy led the team in rebounds with 7 a piece.

Jeronimus was the major scorer with 29 points, followed by Roberts with 19 and Conley with 17. Freshman Hailey Roderique led on the boards with 8 rebounds while three other Gorillas followed with 6.

Pittsburg State Gorillas will continue their season versus the winner of No. 2 seed Northeastern State University against No. 7 seed Newman University.