The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

March 13, 2012

A banner year along the border

By Ryan Atkinson
Globe Sports Writer

We're used to collegiate success in these parts.

Pittsburg State football is -- sans a couple years out of the last 30 -- a perennial power. Missouri Southern basketball is always going to be competitive under Robert Corn. Both MSSU  and PSU track have been known to win a league title here and there.

But this year is turning into something special here along the southern portion of the Kansas-Missouri border.

It all starts, obviously, with Pittsburg State football's run to the NCAA DII national title. It was a wild,  magical ride that not many people expected and restored some of the magic to Carnie Smith Stadium and some of the luster to one of DII's all-time great programs.

That national championship came just days after the Missouri Southern basketball team earned a No. 1 national ranking. The Lions lost that ranking after falling on the road to woeful Missouri Western and finished the season on a disappointing note -- a loss in the opening round of the MIAA tournament, sliding into the regional tournament as a No. 7 and a quick exit from the regional -- but it was another impressive year from Corn¹s group.

Across the state line another magical, unforeseen season was brewing at Pittsburg State, this one from the women's basketball team. And it¹s a run that's still alive.

The Gorillas have already set the school record for wins (23) and picked up the first NCAA tournament win in school history. After Monday's thorough win over Emporia State, the Gorillas are heading to San Antonio for the Elite Eight.

Three more wins and Pittsburg State would have another improbable national title.

And we've also got what looks to be a nationally-relevant team in spring sports. Missouri Southern baseball has won 15 of hits first 16 games and has quickly gone from unranked to No. 11 in the  national coaches poll.

The Lions have already set the school record for most wins to start the season and have an impressive 8-0 mark in MIAA play.

Four nationally-prominent teams in one school year -- a national champion, a team still alive in the final eight, a No. 1 ranking and an on-the rise No. 11 squad. Not too shabby is you ask me.