Blues win MIAA tourney

Blues win MIAA tourney

In the past eight years, the Lady Blues have taken six MIAA tournament titles. The most recent was claimed Sunday when the team beat Central Missouri with a tired starting lineup. The Blues had to turn around from their Saturday game against Northwest Missouri.

“The first five minutes we didn’t really play well,” said Hope Gregory, junior guard. “Both teams were tired, and it came down to who wanted it more.”

Dayna Rodriguez, the senior forward powerhouse, had been out all week with an injured ankle. She still offered 13 points to the final 68-56.

“We had Dayna going for loose balls even though we shouldn’t have,” said Gregory, who put up 14.

Coach Ron McHenry pulled the starters out within the first six minutes, when Central Missouri leaped to an early 10-3 lead. They lead most of the first half, but the Blues lead 33-31 at the half. The second half started explosively as Washburn took a 15-6 run. The team stats were notable—12 of 24 from behind the arc, 46 percent from the field—and the Blues took their win.

“Central had just beat Emporia,” said Brette Ulsaker, senior guard, “so they were ready to play. My adrenaline kicked. It was tough going back to back, but I’m used to playing 30 minutes a game.”

Washburn has looked in the face of the Central Missouri Jennies with relative frequency. The Jennies beat out the No. 2 seed, Emporia State, to face the Blues in the championship game. And Washburn will see them again, Friday, as they open up the NCAA tournament at 2:30 p.m.

“We thought the last game was going to be another Washburn-Emporia showdown,” Gregory said.

The tournament, which started last Thursday, paired Washburn with Southwest Baptist. Baptist started off strong as it was coming in with a good record and an impressive shooting average.

“We were supposed to play Baptist earlier in the week, so we were focused on Baptist,” said Gregory, “but we needed to be smarter defensively.”

On Saturday, the Blues played Northwest Missouri State and won 80-66.

“It had been a while since we had played Northwest,” Gregory said, “we really didn’t play that well but we played well enough.”

The Blues will head for the NCAA tournament as No. 2 seed in the South Central Regional. And their aspirations are positive—having just faced Central Missouri.

“We know a lot about them, and we will have to take it to them early—not so that we can coast, but so we won’t have to worry about a close score,” said Gregory.

Ulsaker, who will come back as an assistant coach for Washburn after she graduates, will play as a Lady Blue for the last time during the NCAA tournament.

“Our team is very confident,” she said, “all of us want to be here, all of us want to win.”