By Jim Henry
Globe Sports Editor
It’s been a roller-coaster basketball season for Johnna tenBerge.
On Saturday night, tenBerge’s campaign hit one of its highest peaks with nine points in Missouri Southern’s 74-63 loss to Central Missouri.
TenBerge hit 3-of-7 shots from 3-point range against the Jennies. Two of them came during a 12-2 spurt to start the second half that turned a seven-point halftime deficit into a three-point lead.
“I was ready to shoot,” she said. “That is what I needed to be doing, and that’s what I’ll continue to do.”
“It was so nice to see,” Lions coach Maryann Mitts said. “That young lady can shoot the basketball. She can drain it.”
TenBerge is shooting 31 percent for the season from beyond the arc, and her 16 treys rank second on the team behind Jolee Sharp’s 19. Sharese Jones has the top 3-point percentage on the team (12-of-30 for 40 percent), followed by Sharp at 34 percent and then tenBerge.
TenBerge started the first nine games of the season and scored a season-high 13 points against Manhattan Christian. She was not in the starting five after Christmas break, and her minutes diminished. But in recent weeks, tenBerge’s play improved both in the game and on the practice floor.
“I think early in the year we had her in a nice little rhythm,” Mitts said. “We had her starting, and then she just kind of lost touch for a while. She was burying herself at the end of the bench, and she’s worked her way out in practice. Her defense has gotten better.
“She’s a very nice girl ... but she was a fierce competitor (Saturday night). I think with that fierce competitiveness, she shot the ball better. She was active defensively, got her hands on a lot of balls. We’ll be a very good basketball program with her playing the way she did Saturday night.”
The Lions’ loss to the Jennies was their latest chapter of playing competitively against a nationally ranked team but not being able to secure the victory.
“It sucks,” tenBerge said. “It’s a bad feeling to know that you’re right there. It’s in your reach, and you’re short. We know what we need to work on. It’s the small things here and there, just like a lot of our other games were right there. We have to fix those little things and move forward and keep working hard.
“The past two weeks we’ve had good practices. If we keep doing that, we’re gong to get the result that we want. We just have to keep working.”
The Lions have chances to avenge two earlier losses this week, playing tonight at Northeastern State (Okla.) before playing host to Emporia State on Friday night.
The RiverHawks blitzed the Lions 69-45 on Jan. 26 in Joplin, hitting 56 percent (27-of-48) from the floor and 48 percent (12-of-25) from the 3-point line. Senior guards Taylor Lewis and Tosha Tyler tallied 14 points apiece to pace NSU.
Nicole Hartzog scored 14 for Missouri Southern.
The RiverHawks (16-6, 11-3 MIAA) are third in the conference standings, one game behind Washburn and one-half game behind Central Missouri.
The Lions (11-10, 5-8) share ninth place with Northwest Missouri State.
The Lions hold tiebreakers over the four teams closest to them in the standings — Missouri Western, Northwest Missouri, Lincoln and Southwest Baptist.