The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Sports

December 6, 2013

Solid play down stretch lifts MSSU women past UNK

For the first time this season Missouri Southern found itself in a close basketball game.

“I was nervous, very nervous,” Lions guard Alexis Fitzpatrick said. “But I had to keep my composure, being the point guard, and keep everybody focused.”

Fitzpatrick was big down the stretch, hitting a jumper in the lane and two free throws during the final minute to help the Lions secure a 76-72 victory over Nebraska-Kearney in an MIAA women’s basketball opener Thursday night at the Leggett & Platt Athletic Center.

Fitzpatrick split two defenders before making a jump stop and hitting a jumper in the middle of the lane for a 70-67 lead with 55 seconds left. Thirty seconds later she was fouled and sank both charities to make it 74-70.

“I got it on the wing, and nobody was open,” Fitzpatrick said. “The first thing I thought was drive and try to get a foul, get to the line. It was exactly the same play.”

Fitzpatrick, 5-foot-9 junior from Cincinnati, finished with 13 points — eight in the last four minutes — five rebounds, four assists, four steals, one blocked shot and two turnovers in 36 minutes in her introduction to MIAA basketball.

“New players to the league sometimes have a little culture shock, especially with the physicality that can happen in the league,” Lions coach Ronda Hubbard said. “I felt like she did a really good job, and she has been doing a great job. She’s not No. 1 in the league in assist-to-turnover ratio because she lacks composure. She has a lot of composure, and her basketball IQ is really high.”

Sharese Jones also had four points in the last minute — a layup after a steal and assist by Nicole Hartzog and two free throws for a four-point lead with 12 seconds left.

“I felt like ‘Lex’ and ‘Winkie’ (Jones) were the reason we didn’t lose our cool in the game,” Hubbard said. “They both played really composed throughout the whole 40 minutes. That’s one of the things I love about them is they are really consistent.”

Dominique Mosley led the Lions with 22 points. After missing five of her first six shots, she finished 10-of-18 from the floor and 2-of-2 at the line. She also had seven rebounds and four steals.

Jones, sophomore guard, had another full stat line for the Lions with 16 points, nine rebounds, two assists and two blocked shots. Hartzog also made four steals as the Lions had 17 steals among 27 Loper turnovers.

Amarah Williams, the Lopers’ center, also scored 22 points, hitting 9-of-12 fielders and 4-of-4 free throws. She was 5-of-18 at the line entering the game.

Guards Sydney Seberger and Laramey Lewis added 12 and 11 points, respectively, for the Lopers (3-4).

The Lions fell behind 13-2 in the first five minutes and 26-13 with 7:10 left in the first half. The Lions cut the deficit to 34-32 at the half and took their first lead on Samantha Soyez’s three-point play three minutes into the second half.

“We weren’t playing as a team at first,” Fitzpatrick said. “But we pulled through, started playing as a team at the end of the game.”

The Lions shot 52 percent from the floor in the second half to raise their game total to 47 percent. They were 18-of-21 at the free-throw line in the second half after going just 3-of-7 in the first 20 minutes.

“We were preaching defense and taking care of the basketball,” Hubbard said. “If we were taking care of the basketball, we were usually getting a pretty good look at the bucket. Then in the last five minutes we were really trying to create opportunities in our offense to drive.

 “The last five minutes of the game, absolutely I’m pleased with the way we played. The other 35 minutes are up for discussion.”

The Lions have another home conference game at 1 p.m. Saturday against Washburn.

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