Lady Blues knocked around in semifinal, won’t win MIAA title for first time in three years

Blocked out Senior forward Amanda Holmes battles with the Bearcat’s forward Mandi Schumacher Saturday at the MIAA Tournament.

Nathan Miller

March Madness spelled its doom on the women’s MIAA tournament this past weekend at Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City, Mo.

The No. 2 seed Emporia State Lady Hornets fell to Truman State 77-70 Thursday and the No. 1 seed Lady Blues fell to the Northwest Missouri Bearcats 59-56 in one of Saturday’s semifinals.

“Washburn may have lost today, but nobody has dominated this league like [Ron McHenry] and Washburn,” said Bearcat coach Gene Steinmeyer. “To win a game like this makes it a little bit more special. That is the goal of every coach in this league, is to be like Washburn.”

But the Bearcats’ gameplan was to make the Lady Blues not play Washburn basketball. The contest was a physical bout right down to the last Lady Blue possession with five seconds remaining that could have sent the game into overtime.

“We just tried to execute a play that allowed us to get off a really good shot,” said Corkey Stiger, senior guard. “They switched on a lot of our screens so we talked about flash, and tried to have somebody get off a good shot.”

Stiger led the Lady Blues in scoring, shooting 8 of 18 from the field with 19 points. Stiger hit a 3-pointer with eight seconds remaining, cutting the Bearcats’ lead to two, after they were up by seven with 22 seconds remaining. The Lady Blues sent Bearcat Lauren Williams to the charity stripe with five seconds remaining, where she hit 1 of 2 to set up the last-ditch Lady Blue effort. The Lady Blues couldn’t get a shot off before the buzzer sounded.

“Washburn doesn’t like to be pushed around,” said Bearcat forward Mandi Schumacher. “We are not a finesse team like them. The officials allowed us to push and shove and we did it.”

Schumacher recorded a double-double, with 14 points and 11 rebounds. The Bearcats won the battle of the boards, 43-35.

“Tonight was a physical game and they won it,” said McHenry. “I like my group. We’ve had ten new players and it’s been a process. Every team has a weakness, and some days when the ball goes in the basket it seems different. If you shoot low percentage like we did today it’s going to be a dog fight.”

The loss snaps a streak of three consecutive MIAA tournament titles, but for the Lady Blues the season starts this weekend. The Lady Blues will travel to Canyon, Texas for the NCAA Division II South Central regional.

“I’m kind of superstitious,” said senior forward Amanda Holmes. “I’m hoping since we lost now we won’t lose in the regional final. This team can bounce back well after a loss. This year we just had a young team and we’ve had our ups and downs.”

Since winning the Division II National Championship in 2005 the Lady Blues have fallen short in the regional final the past two years, preventing a trip to the Elite 8. In 2006 then-guard Cindy Keeley missed a 3 at the buzzer in overtime, falling to the Lady Hornets 61-59. Last year, Holmes missed a free throw that would have sent the game into overtime, falling to Texas A&M Commerce 71-70.

“Its easy to win games [and then] to be happy go lucky,” said McHenry. “But when you don’t win games and things go against you, what are you going to do then? This group has fought. I know this group will bounce back and play another day and play well.”