March 7, 2004
'Cats Come Back, Top WU For Sonic/MIAA Title
KANSAS CITY, Mo. - The Northwest Missouri State University men's basketball team used a huge second-half rally to take the Sonic/MIAA Championship Sunday afternoon at Municipal Auditorium.
The Bearcats trailed Washburn 61-50 with 11:44 remaining in the game. Northwest then outscored the Ichabods 28-10 over the remainder of the contest to take the 78-71 victory. It was the Bearcats' second MIAA Tournament Championship in three years. It was also Northwest's sixth appearance in the title game in the past seven years.
Washburn's Jerad Head hit a pair of big three-pointers early in the second half to give his team the momentum. His first three of the second period put the Ichabods up 41-35 just 2:30 into the second half. Another long ball from Head put Washburn up by nine, 51-42, just five minutes into the second. The Ichabods continued to try to pull away, taking a 59-48 lead with 12:14 remaining on a pair of Steve Bonner free throws. Each team then scored a bucket, leaving Washburn with the aforementioned 61-50 lead.
That's when Victor James (Fr., Crowley, Texas) took over for Northwest. James scored five straight points, including a conventional three-point play, pulling Northwest within six points, 61-55, at the 10-minute mark.
The Bearcats still trailed by six, 64-58, with just less than eight minutes left. But Kelvin Parker (Sr., Raytown, Mo.) grabbed a loose ball at the offensive end and buried a three-pointer to get the Bearcats within three. Northwest pulled within one on a pair of Parker free throws on the next trip down the floor.
Jeremy Cunningham tried to give the momentum back to Washburn. His conventional three-point play with 6:52 left gave the Ichabods a four-point lead, 67-63. But James came up big for Northwest again. He answered Cunningham's three-point play with a jumper to pull the 'Cats within two.
Sky Wilson (Jr., Indio, Calif.) then took his turn to step into the spotlight for Northwest. Wilson hit one of two free throws, getting the Bearcats back within one, 67-66, at the six-minute mark. Just 45 seconds later Wilson took a feed from Jesse Shaw (Jr., Lincoln, Neb.) at the top of the key and buried a three-pointer. That trey gave Northwest its first lead of the game, 69-67.
Carl Jenkins tied things up 69-69 with three minutes left for Washburn, scoring on a fast break off a steal. Once again, James hit a big shot, scoring with 2:42 left to put the 'Cats back up, 71-69. After one Bonner free throw for Washburn, Shaw gave Northwest a three-point edge. Parker found Shaw streaking to the basket for an easy layup and a 73-70 advantage at the two-minute mark. Neither team scored for the next minute.
Parker made it a two-possession game with 58 seconds left, hitting one of two at the free-throw line. Robbins missed a pair of free throws at the Washburn end of the floor. Byron Jackson (Jr., Phoenix, Ariz.) scored for Northwest at the other end, pushing the edge to five, 76-71, with 20 seconds left. After a timeout, Washburn's next possession ended up in a steal and a breakaway dunk for Austin Meyer (Soph., Blue Springs, Mo.). Meyer's dunk was the icing on the cake for the Bearcats.
Six Bearcats scored in double figures, led by Parker's 14. James scored all 13 of his points and grabbed all five of his rebounds in the second half. Wilson scored 12 points, while Jackson tallied 11. Meyer and Shaw each tacked on 10 apiece. Shaw also paved the way under the boards for the Bearcats, pulling down a game-high nine rebounds.
Robbins led Washburn with 15 points. Five Ichabods scored in double figures.
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