The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Pittsburg State Sports

March 13, 2012

Pitt State wins regional title, moves on to Elite Eight

TOPEKA, Kan. — The Pittsburg State Gorillas arrived in Topeka last week having never won an NCAA tournament game.

They left Monday having not lost one this year.

With a come-from-behind 79-67 win over 23rd-ranked Emporia State, the 14th-ranked Gorillas captured the Division II South Central Regional at Washburn’s Lee Arena and secured a berth in the Elite Eight in San Antonio beginning March 20.

“Elite Eight, baby! What a performance,” Pitt State coach Lane Lord exclaimed following the win.

Freshman Lizzy Jeronimus lit up the Hornets with 35 points to go with 10 rebounds, overwhelmingly claiming the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player award.

“She was awesome. She deserves the tournament MVP,” said Lord. “She can drive it. She can shoot the three. She can post up. She’s made every one of our players in our program better. She’s a great player.”

Jeronimus blistered the regional, scoring 29 points — including the game-winning shot — against Central Missouri and 17 in a semifinal win against Northeastern State.

“I just tried to be calm and be confident,” said Jeronimus. “Coach Lord had confidence in me the whole year, and he told me to just keep driving it at them, so that’s what I did.

“San Antonio was in the back of my head. It just kept me going. It didn’t matter how tired I was or how sore I was. I just wanted to win.”

Pitt State now advances to San Antonio where it will take on Shaw University from Raleigh, N.C. The Bears enter the tournament unranked but are 25-6 and are a two seed. The Gorillas are seeded 3rd.

“It’s unbelievable. It’s almost surreal,” said Alexa Bordewick. “Pitt State’s never done this well and I don’t think it’s hit any of us quite yet. But we’re excited to go to San Antonio and see what we can prove to everyone.”

The Gorillas had to weather lights-out shooting by Emporia in the first 11 minutes in the regional championship. When Rachel Hanf connected on the Hornets’ fifth three-pointer on just eight attempts, Pitt State fell to its biggest deficit – 7 points.

At that point, the Hornets were shooting 53 percent from the field and 83.3 percent from the line to go with their torrid 62.5 percent from beyond the arc.

The Gorillas relied almost strictly upon a dribble-drive attack to keep the game close. Jeronimus sliced through the Hornet defense time and again to score or get fouled in the act of shooting. In the first half, the freshman connected on 6-of-10 from the field and added 7-8 free throws.

Inevitably, the Hornets cooled off, and Pitt State started slicing into the lead. Two free-throws by Lauren Brown cut the Emporia State lead to 32-31 just before halftime.

The Gorillas trailed the entire first half. But after ESU surrendered the lead just 15 seconds into the second half, they never regained it.

Bordewick slashed her way to a layup to start the second half, triggering a Pitt State explosion.

The Gorillas cranked up the defense and held Emporia State scoreless for the first three minutes. Four missed shots and two turnovers by the Hornets led to a 12-0 run for Pitt State.

“We came out in the second half and absolutely played awesome on defense,” said Lord. “Those first four minutes of the second half were the difference in the game.”

Topeka-native Bordewick, scoreless in the first half, helped fuel the comeback with 15 points in the second half.

“I had lots of fans here, lots of family, so that made it extra special,” said Bordewick. “The lane was open. They relaxed on me and I was able to drive more in the second half.”

The Hornets entered the game having won eight straight NCAA tournament games, dating back to their national title in 2010. The Hornets were playing in their ninth regional championship game.

The win was Pitt State’s third in three tries this year against the Hornets.

Joining Jeronimus on the All-Tournament Team was teammate Drew Roberts, Emporia State’s Heather Robben and Jocelyn Cummings, and Stevi Schultz from Washburn.

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