Ichabods get hot at right time with two wins, clinch MIAA tourney berth

Sheldon Warmington

In front of possibly the best turnout in Lee Arena this season, Washburn erased a 17-point second half deficit to beat Missouri Southern and clinch a berth in the MIAA tournament.

At the start of the game, there was a sense that it could be a long night for the Ichabods. Missouri Southern was on the attack right out of the gates and built a double-digit lead by halftime. The Lions’ Skyler Bowlin sparked the MSSU onslaught by hitting six of seven shots from the field, with three coming in the form of 3-pointers. Washburn, on the other hand, shot just two of 12 from the 3-point arc.

In what has become a trend, Washburn’s second half effort seemed to be that of a totally different team. After falling behind 61-49 at the 12-minute mark, the Bods sparked an unlikely run that might catapult Washburn all the way to the three seed in the MIAA tournament, up from the sixth seed they held a week ago.

Following a 3-point shot by Paul Byers, Washburn went on a 16-0 run, one of the biggest comebacks for Bob Chipman and his staff.

“In the locker room at half time Coach was fired up and thought that we weren’t playing as a team,” said Nate Daniels, sophomore guard. “So going out there, we raised our defensive intensity, pretty soon the whole team caught on.”

The 16-point run put the Bods ahead 65 -61. The Lions, however, had one last push in them and scored seven straight points. James Williams would not allow that run to materialize and sealed the deal with a 3-point shot and shut MSSU down.

Daniels, since earning a job in the starting lineup three games ago, has been invaluable for the Ichabods and joined senior Lekheythan Malone as the team’s high scorer with 18 points.

“It all starts from practice,” said Daniels. “My teammates just keep telling me to shoot it, showing that they have confidence in me and that builds my confidence to go out there and play a good game.”

On Saturday, the Ichabods traveled to Pittsburg State hoping to build on the surge of momentum they gained in the second half against MSSU. The Ichabods started the game with a sense of urgency, as if to imply that the game had already been won before it even began, and in so doing the climbed to a 15-point lead by half-time, sparked mainly by William McNeill.

“We just picked up our defensive intensity and doing that just improved our offense,” said McNeill. “I love playing defense, getting down in stance and making opponents work hard for their points. That’s something that I’ve tried to bring to the team this year.”

The result was an 80-69 win for the Bods, but the Gorillas were in no mood to roll over and watch Washburn stomp over them, and put together a run of their own to keep it close in the second half.

Led by Spence Magana, an onslaught from Pittsburg State erased the early lead the Bods built, relinquishing the previous 15-point lead to just two.

With their resolve tested, Washburn regained their composure and a 3-pointer and pair of free throws from Daniels helped put the lead back to nine.

“Anytime you’re on the road, something always happens,” said McNeill. “Whether the officiating or foul trouble, so coach just told us to try to maintain a cushion and we managed to do that.”

Washburn was led by DeAndre Eggins, who had 17 points, eight rebounds and eight assists. Malone followed with 13 points and 12 rebounds of his own.  The Bods won the battle on the boards, smashing the Gorillas by a whopping 46 to 22 rebound margin.

The Gorillas attempted late game heroics should prove to be a beneficial learning experience, as the Bods look to face Emporia State at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in the season finale at Lee Arena.