By Jim Henry
Globe Sports Editor
Two fouls on the same defensive possession limited Erin Rice to one minute of playing time in the first half, and she picked up her third foul and blew out a tennis shoe in the first four minutes of the second half.
“Those (shoes) have lasted me since August,” Rice said. “Usually I’m on my third pair by now.”
But Rice’s day improved, and her field goal with 1:21 remaining snapped a tie as Missouri Southern rallied past Drury 62-59 Saturday afternoon at the Leggett & Platt Athletic Center.
The Lions (6-1) trailed by 14 points early in the second half before Jolee Sharp, Shatara Stone and Rice combined to score 13 unanswered points over a three-minute span. Sharp finished with 15 points, Stone 13 and Rice 10 after they combined — repeat, combined — for only 10 points in the first half.
“Coming into this game, we talked a lot about if we outwork our opponent, we are going to win,” Stone said. “We have a lot of people who are going to work (hard) every day. Yes, we came out a little weak, but we knew we had so much more. Once we gathered ourselves together, got a positive mentality ... we still thought this game was in our reach.”
Stone sank two free throws, then passed to Dominique Mosley for a layup to give the Lions a 47-46 lead, their first lead since the first five minutes. But Shelby White’s steal and layup ignited a 7-3 run that gave the Panthers a 55-50 lead with 4:42 to play.
Still down by five, the Lions pulled even when Rice hit a jumper in the lane off an out-of-bounds play and Tee Singleton, who had a turnover on the previous possession, hit a rainbow 3-pointer from the left side to make it 57-57 with 2:40 left.
“The 3 she hit was huge,” Lions coach Maryann Mitts said. “People are going to fall asleep on her, and we did a good job of finding her. She was wide open, and she can hit the 3.
“At that time, that was the momentum boost that we needed. We needed somebody to step up at the 9-minute mark, and Shatara did that. I thought Jolee did that, Erin had some great minutes, and when Tee hit that 3, it was the boost we needed to get us just a little more excited.”
It was 59-59 when the Lions got the ball to Rice on the left high post. She faked a handoff to Stone cutting off the post, and Rice drove down the left of the lane and hit the short jumper.
“We have a lot of different (options) off that one set,” Stone said. “It seems to work really well for us. We have a lot of people who will step up when it’s their turn to execute and put the ball in the hole.”
“I do hand it off to Shatara sometimes,” Rice said. “We just knew they were going to overplay that after she had (scored) that many times. That play really worked, and it was a great call by Coach.”
After an exchange of turnovers, Pritchard, who led the Panthers with 15 points, missed a trey from the left side. Singleton was fouled and made the front end of a 1-and-1 free throw to give the Lions a three-point lead with 24 seconds left. Drury’s chance to tie ended when Pritchard’s 3-pointer was well short and rebounded by Rice in the waning seconds.
The Panthers (4-2) drilled 5-of-7 3-point attempts while building a 32-24 halftime lead, but they were 0-for-8 from long range in the second half. The Panthers shot 33 percent (8-of-24) in the second half and had only four field goals in the final 14 minutes after building their 14-point lead.
“I think we wore them down,” Mitts said. “At halftime we talked about their 3s. We had to take away the 3 and make them put it on the floor because we felt like we were a little bit more athletic on the dribble-drive.”
The Lions shot 48 percent (15-of-31) in the second half to raise their game total to 40 percent.
Missouri Southern begins MIAA play Saturday afternoon at Truman State.