Lady Blues share MIAA title with Lady Hornets

Blue dominance The No. 17-ranked Washburn Lady Blues celebrate their fifth MIAA regular season title in six years. The Lady Blues play Thursday vs. Missouri Western State noon at Kansas City, Mo. in the first round of the MIAA Tournament.

Nathan Miller

In what could be their last appearance in Lee Arena, senior guard Corkey Stiger and senior forward Amanda Holmes pushed their game to new heights Wednesday. The pair recorded career scoring highs, allowing the Lady Blues to escape the grasp of Fort Hays State, 64-60.

“I don’t think it was anything planned like, ‘Oh, let’s get our career highs on senior night,'” said Holmes. “It just seemed to happen. We both know we need to step up because we’re getting towards the end. The shots just fell and we were in the right place at the right time.”

Stiger cashed in 27 points and Holmes 22 in a victory that clinched a share of the MIAA regular season title and a No. 1 seed in this weekend’s MIAA tournament at Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City, Mo. The Lady Blues captured their fifth MIAA title in six seasons despite a loss to Central Missouri 68-59 Saturday that gave Emporia State part of the title as well.

“It just gives us more of an advantage going into regionals and the conference tournament,” said Holmes. “It’s just a great success because we’ve struggled a lot this year coming together as a team. We’ve always had the talent, it’s just the team aspect we needed to work on. This whole group has just now pulled together and we’ve stepped up.”

The Lady Blues will take on Missouri Western Thursday at noon. The Griffons are 12-14 on the year and secured the eighth seed Saturday with a win against Missouri Southern 70-58. The Lady Blues swept the Griffons this year, defeating them 68-44 and 65-52.

“We’re definitely happy about [the MIAA title],” said Stiger. “We just have to keep playing and doing well and not giving up because this conference is pretty tough.”

Wednesday may have been a sign things were about to go down hill Saturday in Warrensburg, Mo. After leading at half time 34-24, the Lady Tigers came roaring back with a 9-0 run.

“We caught a team that was playing pretty good and we looked a little tight,” said McHenry. “Sometimes with things on the line like conference and the last possible home game, for some you have a tendency to play tight. So after a big 3 off the backboard and a couple free throws, they kind of got us on our heels.”

The Lady Tigers kept inching their way back throughout the night on the performance of senior guard Meshia Mason. Mason, who hit four 3-pointers all year, doubled her mark Wednesday banking four from beyond the arc.

“That was so frustrating because you just didn’t expect her to shoot,” said Stiger. “When she came off those screens and banked the shots in that was so intimidating.”

With the help of Mason and senior forward Brianna Willhite, the Lady Tigers actually took the lead from the Lady Blues 46-43 with 7:42 remaining. Willhite cashed in 15 points for the night.

But the Lady Blues battled their way back taking the lead 47-46 after two free throws by junior guard Janice Bright. Holmes added to it with another bucket, only for Mason to hit one of her 3s to tie it at 49 apiece with 6:01 to play to set up a wild finish.

The Lady Blues held a 62-60 lead with 43 seconds left, but the Tigers on the pursuing possession were called for three seconds. The Lady Tigers sent junior point guard Jessica Mainz to the line to cap the game with two free throws 64-60 with two seconds remaining.

“It’s our last home game and we wanted to come out and play hard,” said Stiger. “We always have to play hard for everyone else to set the tone. We just came out and tried to give it all we had to give a good impression in the last home game.”