By Ryan Atkinson
Globe Sports Writer
It’s do-or-die time for the Pittsburg State women.
A two-game losing streak did away with any hopes the Gorillas had of earning a bye to Kansas City and their 17-9 overall record likely won’t get them into the NCAA Division II national tournament.
That means 7 tonight’s date with Missouri Western at John Lance Arena in the opening round of the MIAA tournament is purely survive-and-advance.
“It’s nice that we play at home again,” Pittsburg State sophomore Lizzy Jeronimus said. “Hopefully we’ll get these seniors one last win at John Lance Arena, because they definitely deserve it. We need to show our crowd what we’re all about because we’ve disappointed them in the last two games.”
Those last two games consist of Saturday’s 63-55 loss to Emporia State and a 62-57 loss to Missouri Southern on Wednesday. Both losses came at John Lance Arena.
All this after the Gorillas had won five straight and seemed to have things finally in order after losing starter Hailey Roderique to a season-ending knee injury.
“We’re going to have to try something different than we have the last two games,” Pitt State coach Lane Lord said. “Obviously that didn’t work. Maybe change the routine, change the lineup. I don’t know what we’re going to do. We’ve got good enough team to make a run, there’s no doubt about that. We have enough players to make a run. We just have to play a complete game.”
Tonight’s outing is a rematch of a Jan. 30 game in St. Joseph won by Missouri Western, 70-65.
The Griffons scored 10 straight points to turn a 58-53 deficit with 5:32 remaining into a 63-58 lead with just 1:12 left.
The loss to Western mirrored Pitt State’s two most recent losses in one key area — defensive rebounding.
Pitt State allowed 17 offensive rebounds to the Griffons, the same number they gave up to Missouri Southern. On Saturday, Pitt State gave up 19 offensive rebounds to Emporia State.
“We’re playing tough, we’re playing hard, we’re competing,” Lord said. “It’s just that one little area that gets you. Offensively we’re struggling right now for some odd reason.
“And you can’t give up 19 offensive rebounds and expect to win.”
The Gorillas hope to find some of the same motivation they had last season after a disappointing loss to Lincoln in the MIAA tournament opener. Pitt State then went on to earn its first trip to the NCAA Division II Elite Eight.
“We have some players who have been in this situation and those players need to step up and make plays,” Lord said. “They’ve done it before and that’s what we’re counting on.”