The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO


February 28, 2014

MSSU women earn No. 4 seed at MIAA tourney

ST. CHARLES, Mo. — Sharese Jones carried the load early, and Alexis Fitzpatrick took over down the stretch as Missouri Southern downed Lindenwood 71-61 Thursday night at Hyland Arena.

Fitzpatrick tallied 18 points — all in the final 15 minutes — and Jones and Shonte Clay contributed 15 and 11, respectively, as the Lions (18-7, 12-6 MIAA) secured the No. 4 seed for next week’s conference postseason tournament in Kansas City.

But first, the Lions wrap up regular-season play on Saturday afternoon at Lincoln.

The Lions rallied from a 29-26 halftime deficit to take a 36-35 lead with 14:40 remainig on Fitzpatrick’s short jumper in the lane — her first points of the game.

The Lions never relinquished the lead, and a quick five-point spurt by Shawnee Phillips — a 3-pointer from the right corner and a baseline drive after faking a trey from the same spot — pushed the lead to 50-44 with 7:30 to play.

“Domo (Dominique Mosley) drove inside, which opened the shot for me,” Phillips said. “Then ‘Lex’ (Fitzpatrick) kicked it out to me, and the defender thought I was going to shoot the 3 again. Coach has told me when they are playing me tight, put the ball on the floor and take it to the basket.”

The Lions had problems with careless turnovers early in the second half, but they didn’t make a turnover down the stretch. Fitzpatrick’s trey from the right wing gave the Lions a 58-50 lead with 3:45 left, and she converted 8-of-10 free throws in the final 2:26 as the Lions scored on nine of their final 11 possessions.

“Some of those turnovers were by ‘Lex’ on sling passes,” Lions coach Ronda Hubbard said. “They looked awfully familiar. I told ‘Lex’ I wanted her to create tempo down the floor but I don’t want any long, errant passes. And I really want you to take over this game.

“I wanted the ball to stay in her hands. She just put the team on her back and did a great job.”

Returning home where she was an all-state performer at Francis Howell Central High School, Jones scored eight of the Lions’ first 12 points and finished 4-of-6 from the floor and 7-of-9 at the line for her 15 points. She also grabbed a team-high eight rebounds — five off the offensive glass — as the bigger Lions dominated the boards 35-22.

“This night is a big night for me,” Jones said. “Especially being back in my hometown, we had a good fan support. It was nice to see all my family and friends to come out and support us.

“I actually feel being at home made me feel more relaxed. The pressure wasn’t there, but I was just happy to be back  home and see everybody.”

“Winkie obviously was going to be excited to play,” Hubbard said. “I thought she really played a solid game on both ends of the floor.”

Kassidy Gengenbacher, the leading candidate for conference freshman of the year, scored a career-high 26 points for Lindenwood (14-12, 9-10). Gengenbacher hit her first five shots and finished 8-of-11 from the floor, 4-of-5 from the arc and 6-of-6 at the line.

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