Dec. 7, 2013
Bearcats fall short in upset bidBy David Boyce | Box Score
MARYVILLE, Mo. - During different stretches, Northwest Missouri State women’s basketball team competed nicely with undefeated Emporia State.
One notable time came late in the second half when the Bearcats trailed by 18 and brought their deficit to a couple of points.
In the early part of the season, Northwest is trying to find its identity and comfort zone under first year coach Michael Smith. Emporia State knows who it is and expects to compete for a MIAA title every season.
That one difference played a part in Northwest’s 68-64 loss to Emporia State Saturday evening at Bearcat Arena.
“We know in the back of our heads they are the No. 3 team and they are suppose to come out and play the way they did, but at the same time, we don’t want to underestimate ourselves,” said junior Ariel Easton, who finished with 17 points. “We came out and gave all the fight we had.”
Emporia State appears to have nine players who are all extremely confident when they take their shots. It is easy to see why Emporia State is now 8-0 and ranked No. 3 in NCAA Division II.
For the Bearcats, who fell to 2-6,they learned the level they have to play to beat a top team in the MIAA. They nearly found it in the final 3 minutes of the game.
Northwest gave much more than a glimpse of what they will become in January, February and March.
“I felt all along this team is making progress every game,” Northwest coach Michael Smith said. “This is the most excited I have been. We had people playing within their abilities tonight. We were being a lot more patient on offense. We had people come off the bench and brought energy and gave us positive minutes.
“Obviously, we were outsized and we knew that going in. I think our heart can go along ways. If anything, this team showed me in the second half that we have a big heart.”
Northwest started well. Easton drained a three-pointer for the first points of the game.
The Hornets immediately tied the game on the first of three, first-half three-pointers by Kelly Moten. Emporia State scored five more points for an 8-3 lead. The Hornets never trailed again.
Emporia State pushed its lead to 19-7. The Hornets scored points inside and outside.
“I felt like in the first half we just didn’t bring the energy that I expected because we had nothing to lose going into this game,” Smith said.
Northwest continued to play hard. The Bearcats closed to 22-16 on a basket by senior Meridde Scott.
The Bearcats just didn’t have enough firepower to keep pace with Emporia State’s high-octane offense. The Hornets went into halftime ahead 36-25.
Early in the second half, Emporia State extended its lead to 42-27. Northwest battled back and closed to 42-33, but the Bearcats started to sputter again on offense.
The dry spell allowed Emporia State to increase its lead 55-37. It was too much of a deficit for the Bearcats to overcome. But they tried and nearly succeeded.
A free throw by freshman Ashley Guenther with 3:10 left brought the Bearcats to within 10 at 65-55. It ignited an impressive late run by the Bearcats.
Tember Schechinger added two free throws 30 seconds later and then she made a basket, which pulled the Bearcats to within six at 65-59 with 1:16 left.
The most impressive part of the run came next when Northwest grabbed two offensive rebounds before Easton got a put-basket to make it 65-61 with 45 seconds left.
Forty-three seconds later, junior Ashleigh Nelson sank three free throws, pulling the Bearcats to within two at 66-64 with 1.2 seconds left.
“We are not about moral victories. We have to get over the hump and start getting the wins,” said Nelson, who finished with 17 points. “Tonight we showed we can do it and can beat anybody in this league if we just come together as one and play with a passion as we did when we were down by such a big deficit.”
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