Jan. 12, 2013
Bearcats drop heartbreaker vs Griffons
By David Boyce
ST. JOSEPH, MO. – One bad stretch midway through the second half prevented Northwest Missouri State women’s basketball for picking up its third MIAA victory.
In addition, t cost the Bearcats a win against neighboring rival Missouri Western and that made the heartbreaking 68-66 loss sting just a little more.
Northwest dropped to 8-5 overall and 2-3 in the MIAA. Western improved to 11-3 and 4-2.
The loss also wasted a brilliant shooting performance from sophomore guard Ashleigh Nelson. She went six for eight from behind the three-point arc and finished with a career-high 26 points.
“This is my high-scoring game, but it is pretty painful losing to our biggest rival,” Nelson said.
“We took steps in the right direction. We are getting better, but it is still a loss.”
Early in the second half, Northwest appeared to be in complete control, especially when Nelson completed a three-point play that put the Bearcats up 30-23.
Northwest had the momentum and a hot-shooting Nelson. When the Griffons scored the next three points, Nelson answered with a three-pointer.
Missouri Western tied the game at 33-33, but Nelson drained another three-pointer.
“There was that stretch,” Northwest coach Mark Kellogg said. “I don’t remember what it was. We went up seven. But I didn’t like our energy to start the second half. We battled enough, but we just didn’t make shots.
“I don’t know if it was fatigue or silly turnovers. They made the run. I’m proud we answered back and at least gave ourselves some chances.”
The Bearcats, though, needed one more source of offense to keep pace with the balanced attack from Western.
With the game tied 38-38, Western went on a 9-2 run for a 47-40 lead and never trailed again despite the efforts from Nelson.
“We took too long to stop the bleeding,” Nelson said.
Nelson knocked down two more three-pointers, one that helped Northwest close the gap to 53-48 and the other to 55-51.
“My teammates got me the looks and I was open,” Nelson said.
Each time Missouri Western responded. Over the next 7 minutes, the Griffons shut down Nelson offensively. The Bearcats had trouble finding someone else to score.
Nelson, though, got hot again. Another three-pointer by her with 50 seconds left helped Northwest close to 64-62.
The Bearcats got the ball back with 40 seconds left and trailing by two points and called timeout. Northwest turned the ball over and Missouri Western scored an easy layup.
But Northwest wasn’t done. Maggie Marnin drilled a clutch three-pointer, pulling the Bearcats to within one at 67-66 with 25 seconds left.
Missouri Western hit three free throws in the final 25 seconds to eke out a two-point victory.
It was a tough finish for the Bearcats, who played a splendid 17 minutes in the first half.
“We were better, no doubt,” Kellogg said. “I told them it was a step forward, but it is still not the result we wanted. The goal is to win basketball games and get better by winning.
“Do you get better by losing? Yes. But I’m getting tired of losing. I do not like this feeling. I can’t allow them to get comfortable in that feeling.”
After giving up the first five points of the game, Northwest turned in a gritty effort the rest of the first half and went into halftime with a 28-23 lead.
It was quite the turnaround after a shaky start that caused Kellogg to call timeout 2 minutes into the game. He wanted to settle his team. It worked.
Northwest took a 9-7 lead on a three-pointer by Nelson and never trailed again in the first half, in part because seven different players scored.
The Bearcats got a nice boost off the bench from senior Ashley Thayer, who drained two three-pointers in the first half. Her second one gave Northwest a five-point halftime lead.
Northwest returns home Wednesday to host Lincoln at Bearcat Arena. Tipoff is set for 5:30 p.m. in one of only two home games during January for the Bearcats.
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