Lady Blues out rebound, defeat Griffons in first round play

Luke Warnken / Washburn Review

Under the oval shaped roof of Municipal Auditorium the No. 1 seeded Washburn Lady Blues tipped off the MIAA tournament against No. 8 seeded Missouri Western in Kansas City, Mo.

    There may have been some holes in the roof of the historic gymnasium as three’s rained down in the first half. Both teams combined for 16 three’s in the first period.

    Senior forward Jessica Koch started off on fire for the Griffons scoring 11 of Missouri Western’s first 18 points to give MWSU an early 18-7 lead. Koch was a deadly assassin from beyond the arc to start the game off hitting her first three 3 point attempts. Washburn senior Stevi Schultz had the luxury of guarding Koch for a majority of the game.

    “When she gets going on her three’s she is hard to stop,” said Schultz. “Once she gets confident she’ll pull up from anywhere.”

    Washburn women’s head coach Ron McHenry game planned for the sharp shooting Koch.

    “Koch has been one of the best players in the league,” said McHenry. “We gave up 25 points to her but I still feel we managed to defend her well.”

    Washburn was able to rally from 11 points down as junior forward Tiara George hit a short layup at the 14:01 mark in the first half. The basket sparked a 23-0 run by the Lady Blues that was fueled by hot shooting from behind the arc by the Washburn guards.

    Washburn held MWSU scoreless for almost six minutes during the run until Koch was able to knock down a free throw to keep the Griffons within 11. Both teams conitnued to trade baskets until Koch sank two treys at the end of the first half to bring the score to 43-34 at halftime. The Griffon guard had 18 points to lead all scorers going into the second half.

    “It was a tough first round draw,” said McHenry. I was a little nervous and I definitely didn’t want to overlook this game.”

    Washburn came out the second half hot as the senior trio of Schultz, senior guard Ebonie Williams, and senior center Cassie Lombardino all scored to push the lead to 57-41 with 15 minutes left to go in the game. Western Missouri was able to stay close for a majority of the second half but was unable to capitalize. The Griffons went 1-5 from downtown and could not get their offense truly going.

    “They are such a good transition offensive team,” said McHenry. “We were able to get back and take away their transition offense.”

    The Blues held the Griffons to zero fast break points and cracked down on Missouri Western’s three point shooting in the second half. MWSU was able to cut the lead to eight with 10:34 left to go in the game off of a Kallie Schoonover jumper and Charlonda Bozeman layup.

    Williams answered with a layup of her own. Williams finished the game with 18 points on 6-17 shooting. Cassie Lombardino scored three straight buckets for the Blues to push the lead back to 13. The Bonner Springs product pulled down ten boards while scoring a team high 19 points.

    “Our inside game was good,” said McHenry. “We got our inside game going which got our outside game going.”

    The Blues scored 36 points inside the paint and held the Griffons to only 18 points in the lane. The key to Washburn’s win was rebounding. The Lady Blues had 46 rebounds to MWSU 31. Washburn was able to get to the charity stripe 19 times, knocking down 14 of them. MWSU only shot ten free throws, hitting seven of them.

    “There were times we didn’t play well,” said McHenry. “It was an opening game against a good Western Missouri team and I thought we played pretty good overall.”

    Washburn came away with the victory with a 80-63 win over Western Missouri. The Lady Blues advance to the second round of the MIAA tournament. They will face Central Missouri University Saturday, March 3nd at Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City, Mo.