Feb. 26, 2014
Bearcats rally on senior night for victoryBy David Boyce | Box Score | Photo Album
MARYVILLE, Mo. - Down by 11 early in the second half and looking at a potential four-game losing streak, the Northwest Missouri State women’s basketball team rose up against Southwest Baptist and played inspired basketball.
Northwest started pounding the ball inside and found success, beating Baptist 76-72 Wednesday evening at Bearcat Arena.
The victory puts Northwest in the MIAA Tournament and keeps hope alive for a first-round game at Bearcat Arena.
“It is such a relief,” Northwest senior guard Monique Stevens said. “It is really nice that we have clinched it. Now we just have to play inspired basketball and look forward to Saturday.”
It was the proper send off for Stevens and senior guard Meridee Scott, who were playing their last regular-season home game. Each played a role in the second-half turnaround.
Scott, who graduated from Maryville High School, finished with 10 points, many coming at key times.
“It is sad, but exciting at the same time,” Scott said of her last regular-season home game. “We are just excited that we won. We just really wanted to get in that tournament. Winning tonight meant a whole lot for us (seniors) and our team. I am so happy we won tonight.”
For a while, it looked bleak when Northwest trailed 42-31 early in the second half. The Bearcats appeared to be in their late-season funk.
Northwest, though, started driving the ball inside and that opened up the outside enough for Stevens to hit consecutive three-pointers that turned a 44-40 deficit into a 46-44 lead with 13:30 left in the game.
“They were really important,” said Stevens, who finished with six points and three assists. “I haven’t been shooting the ball well the last three games. I knew how important it was to get my shot back. I hit the first one and it gave me a little confidence.
“Hitting the second one opened the inside presence so much more.”
Baptist grabbed two more leads over the next couple of minutes. The last was 50-49. Northwest took the lead for good at 51-50 on an inside basket by Annie Mathews.
Tember Schechinger followed that with back-to-back drives to the basket that resulted in two layups, pushing Northwest’s lead to 55-50. She finished with a team-high 16 points on six of eight shooting from the field.
The Bearcats maintained control the rest of the way because they shared the basketball, got it inside and took the least difficult shot available.
“You look down our stat line and we had more assists than turnovers,” Northwest coach Michael Smith said. “It talks about how we shared the basketball tonight. We didn’t settle.
“We had six girls in double figures. The word team is the first thing that comes to my mind when I see that stat.”
The win could not have come at a better time for the Bearcats, who improved to 10-15 overall and 7-11 in the MIAA. Northwest will conclude its regular season Saturday at Central Missouri.
Northwest will need confidence against the Jennies, who are battling for first place with Emporia State.
The Bearcats just need to play the way it did in the second half against Baptist instead of the first half.
Northwest shot 61 percent from the field in the second half and only committed five turnovers in the final 20 minutes.
“It was definitely a tale of two halves,” Smith said. “It was great. I thought our fans deserved that second-half performance. I felt in the first half we played with just enough energy to not to lose. We played a little timid and that has been the story the last couple of games.
“A lot of coaches would have went into halftime and screamed and yelled.”
Smith said he spoke in a calm manner.
“I told them you are playing really uninspired basketball,” Smith said. “It is very disappointing to me and disappointing to our fans. Our fans deserve more.
“We got 20 minutes of basketball to play. We can play like we are capable of and if we lose, I am going to be OK with it. I said if we play like we are capable of, we are probably going to win.”
The Bearcats proved Smith right.
Northwest started the game well. The Bearcats moved the ball around and got open shots. The Bearcats led to a 14-7 lead.
Unfortunately, the Bearcats couldn’t sustain it. They went cold from the field. Baptist went on a 19-4 run for a 26-18 lead.
It didn’t stop there. Northwest fell behind 34-23 before it finally regrouped and went into halftime down 36-29.
Statistically, the first half was fairly even. The difference was Baptist getting to more of the loose balls and grabbing a couple of more offensive rebounds, which led to a few more second-chance points.
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