The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Sports

January 16, 2014

Focused Lions sink Lindenwood

Once the game finally started, Shonte Clay and her Missouri Southern teammates started quickly.

The Lions built a 12-point lead in the first eight minutes en route to a 72-61 victory over Lindenwood on Wednesday night at the Leggett & Platt Athletic Center.

Clay, 6-foot-2 senior center, hit 9-of-13 field goals and scored 19 points to lead the Lions (11-3, 5-2 MIAA). Shawnee Phillips again provided a spark off the bench with 15 points, five rebounds and two blocked shots.

Nicole Hartzog collected 10 points, four assists and three steals, and Alexis Fitzpatrick had eight points, 10 assists, six steals and one ankle-twisting crossover in the last minute that drew roars of approval from the crowd.

Reserve guard Morgan Johnson led Lindenwood (8-7, 3-5) with 16 points. Guards Kassidy Gengenbacher and Caroline Bourlioux added 14 and 11, respectively.

The game began 45 minutes late because the MIAA office did not have the game on its master schedule, meaning no officials had been assigned to work it. Two area officials were contacted around 4:15 p.m. and worked the game.

“We haven’t faced it before. Usually the games are pretty timely,” Clay said. “We’d lay back a little bit, try to find a way to refocus … get tuned in and try to remember our game plan, and I think it worked out well in our favor.”

“There was a delay and then another delay,” Lions coach Ronda Hubbard said. “It seemed like every time I looked at the clock, there were more minutes on it instead of less minutes. Our rhythm and our regiment were thrown off … I was proud of our kids for staying focused, and Lindenwood stayed focused, too.”

Clay scored all five points as the Lions grabbed a 5-1 lead in the first three minutes, then Sharese Jones netted seven points and Hartzog drove twice for layups as the Lions widened their margin to 18-6 with 12:25 left in the half.

“Kudos to my teammates. They found me,” Clay said. “They saw that I was open, and I found the basket. Our plays were executed pretty well. Our focus was to start better than they did, and I think we did that.”

“I thought we got off to a really good start,” Hubbard said. “And I thought we got off to a good start in the second half. As a staff, that’s something we’ve been stressing is our first five minutes have to be better.”

The Lions never relinquished the lead and led 40-30 at halftime. Each time Lindenwood pulled within three or four points, the Lions would answer with a bucket.

 “We kept talking to our team about moving the ball back and forth,” Hubbard said. “We wanted to distribute the ball well, not getting focused on just our post play. We wanted to move the ball, find the open player, and every player on the court and be ready to shoot.

“Tonight I felt we had five people on the floor ready to score at all times. That hasn’t always been the case. Tonight it was, and that’s why we were able to come back and hit big shots. It wasn’t the same people. We really distributed the ball well.”

The Lions shot 46 percent from the field and held a 36-28 rebounding advantage. Lindenwood hit 43 percent and committed 20 turnovers, six more than the Lions.

Missouri Southern has another home game Saturday afternoon against Lincoln.

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