By Jim Henry
Globe Sports Editor
Missouri Southern flirted with knocking off two of the MIAA’s top women’s basketball teams during the past week.
One week ago the Lions trailed second-place Central Missouri 60-56 with less than seven minutes left before falling 74-63. And on the road Wednesday night, the Lions trailed third-place Northeastern State 46-42 with three minutes left before being outscored 10-6 down the stretch and losing 56-48.
“Mental mistakes down the stretch hurt us … a player running the wrong play or passing to the wrong spot,” Lions coach Maryann Mitts said. “We didn’t get the looks I would have liked to close out the game.
“We’re just not finishing games. That’s what is disappointing, and I’m disappointed for them. We play about 35 minutes of great basketball and we’re not able to close it out. That is what is frustrating.”
The Lions are back at home tonight to battle fourth-place Emporia State in the Leggett & Platt Athletic Center, and the Lady Hornets are the hottest team in the league.
Wednesday night’s 73-60 road victory over Central Oklahoma extended their winning streak to eight games overall and seven straight by double figures. It’s the first time ESU has won seven in a row by at least 10 points in five seasons.
Laura Patrick topped five players in double figures with 17 points, two above her team-leading average. She scored 22 points in the Hornets’ 68-52 home victory over Missouri Southern on Jan. 23.
The Lions led most of the first 14 minutes at Emporia State, and they later cut a 12-point, second-half deficit to five before being outscored 17-6 in the last six-plus minutes.
Dominique Mosley paced the Lions with 17 points, and Shatara Stone added 12.
Mosley, however, may not play today. Her aunt died this week, and Mosley’s availability depends on the funeral arrangements in Chicago.
Shonte Clay, the Lions’ other post player, will return to action tonight after sitting out Wednesday’s game with an ankle sprain.
While the Northeastern State game was another disappointing finish, it also provided perhaps the Lions’ best seven-minute stretch of the season.
The Lions, down 20-8 with 8:51 left in the first half, went on a 23-7 burst to take a 31-27 lead with 1:50 left in the half. The Lions hit 9-of-14 shots overall and 5-of-8 from beyond the arc, owned a 7-4 rebounding advantage, made two steals to set up layups and did not have a turnover. NSU was 3-of-8 from the floor and had three turnovers.
“It was phenomenal basketball on both sides,” Mitts said. “The kids looked so much more relaxed. Two weeks ago they looked confused, battled, nervous. I don’t see that anymore.”