March 6, 2011
Northwest wins third MIAA tournament title
And the element that has made the year so wonderful is in any given game, a different player will step up with a MVP performance.
Championship Sunday belonged to senior Kyla Roehrig, who was selected MVP of the MIAA Women's Basketball Tournament.
In the biggest game so far in her Northwest career, Roehrig scored 26 points and pulled down 17 rebounds to lift the Bearcats to an impressive 79-63 championship victory at Municipal Auditorium.
"I just love to sit back and watch Kyla work down there," Northwest junior guard Shelly Martin said. "Basically, you throw anything up to her and it's basically guaranteed to go in even if they hack her, which most people do. She just gets the rebound and puts it right back in. It's fun to watch."
Her output was vital. Just about every time Emporia grabbed the momentum, Roehrig either scored or pulled down an offensive rebound that prevented the Hornets from getting within a possession of tying or taking a lead.
In addition, Roehrig nearly matched Emporia senior Alli Volkens, who last year earned MVP honors in the NCAA Division II Elite Eight during Emporia's run to the national title.
"I didn't let her get in my head mentally," Roehrig said. "She likes to showboat a little bit. I know I have to do what I need to do and not let her get in my head."
Volkens played with the desperation to keep her season alive. She finished with a game-high 29 points and a game-high 18 rebounds.
"Kyla Roehrig matched Alli Volkens point for point and rebound for rebound and that was huge," Northwest coach Gene Steinmeyer said.
"You can see with the players we have at the post-game press conference, we have the inside with Kyla, the mid-range player with Gentry Dietz who can guard the guards and she likes it inside. And we have our three-point shooter with Shelly Martin. When all parts are working we are pretty good."
Because Northwest has so many more options it allowed the Bearcats to improve to 25-4 and gain an automatic bid into the eight-team South Central Regional.
Emporia dropped to 20-9 and left Municipal wondering if it had done enough this season to return to the Division II national tournament.
The Hornets didn't come out nervous. It was simply a case of Northwest continuing its tournament trend of getting off to a fast start.
The Bearcats built a double-digit lead before going into a little lull to allow the other team to close the gap.
Still, the Bearcats' offense was clicking at such a high level against Emporia that they went into halftime ahead 44-36.
For a championship game, Steinmeyer couldn't have asked for a better start from his team.
The Bearcats started by attempting very high-percentage shots. They dumped the ball down low to Roehrig who scored two field goals in the paint.
Henry followed with two points. Before Emporia State could really break a sweat, Northwest had spurted to a 10-0 lead.
"When we score quickly it builds momentum," Dietz said. "We are a team that has little lapses. It's important to build those leads which build our confidence. We know if they make that run and challenge us, we have that cushion to challenge back and answer them."
Rheanna Egli finally put Emporia State on the scoreboard with a three-pointer.
The Hornets had their moments on offense, but it was hard for them to gain much ground because of the contributions Northwest got from its bench.
When Emporia State closed to 21-15, back-up forward Tara Roach came off the bench and scored back-to-back buckets to push the Bearcats' lead to 25-15.
A few minutes later reserve guard Ashley Thayer knocked down a three-pointer that upped Northwest's lead to 28-17.
"We got a big three out of Ashley and some big points from Tara Roach early in the game," Steinmeyer said. "We got some great minutes there."
Roehrig gave Emporia State trouble throughout the first half. Her 14 points and eight rebounds in the first 20 minutes was a big reason Northwest built a 40-27 lead late in the first half.
But the Hornets buzzed back and closed to 40-34. A basket by Roehrig prevented Emporia from getting closer.
Emporia kept fighting hard in the early minutes of the second half. They trailed 52-50 with 12:58 left on a three-point play by Volkens.
Northwest answered with its other big-time inside player. Dietz scored on a layup and Roehrig followed with a layup, giving the Bearcats a six-point cushion.
The Hornets scored a field goal, but the four-point deficit was as close as they would get the rest of the game.
"We have a habit of finishing strong," Steinmeyer said. "We did today. I always say the sign of a good team is once you are challenged you respond. I think the nail in the coffin was Gabby Curtis' three."
Northwest built a 68-57 lead on a layup by Dietz and Gabby Curtis followed with a trey that put the Bearcats comfortably ahead 71-57 with 4:53 left.
The only thing for the Bearcats was to cut down the nets after the clock hit 0:00.
"We are a very different team," Roehrig said. "We can joke around with each other and not be so serious and have fun with it. It's the best team I've ever played on that meshes together."
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