EMPORIA, Kan. – Missouri Southern flirted with an upset at White Auditorium, a house of horrors where the Lions have not won in almost 24 years.
A strong third quarter earned the Lions the lead entering the final stanza, but in the end, turnovers and offensive rebounds proved to be the difference as Emporia State rallied to beat the Lions 71-63 on Saturday afternoon in MIAA women’s basketball action.
The Lions (7-14, 4-9 MIAA) outscored the Lady Hornets 21-10 in the third quarter to turn a 35-25 halftime deficit into a 46-45 lead with 10 minutes left.
Emporia State (17-5, 10-3) took its biggest lead, 39-28, with seven minutes left in the third quarter, but the last five minutes of the quarter saw the Lions play some of their best basketball all season.
An Amber Buch layup, two Jordan Schoenberger free throws and a Destiny Cozart 3-pointer pulled the Lions within 39-35. After the Hornets scored two buckets, the Lions ran off 11 unanswered points for a 46-43 lead with 40 seconds left in the quarter. Layne Skiles had the first three points, Cozart connected for two more treys and Zoe Campbell scored on the inside before the Hornets’ Tre’Zure Jobe hit a 15-footer at the buzzer to make it a one-point game.
“We shared the basketball, made shots, and defensively we really got after them,” Lions coach Ronnie Ressel said. “We took things away. They struggled to do a lot of things offensively.”
Morgan Laudan, who didn’t score in the first three quarters, ignited the Hornets with 11 fourth-quarter points. Her three-point play and layup on consecutive trips began a 9-0 run that put Emporia State ahead to stay, and with four minutes left, she nailed the biggest shot of the game.
The Hornets missed a shot but grabbed the offensive rebound, and as the shot clock almost expired, Laudan hit a trey from the right wing for a 60-53 lead with 4:04 left.
“We helped, and then we stayed too long on the help,” Ressel said. “They kicked it out, and the kid made a shot. It was huge for them to get that. They made a play, and we didn’t make plays down the stretch.”
The Lions, with season scoring leader Chasidee Owens out with a knee injury, shot 46 percent from the floor and 48 percent from the 3 compared to ESU’s 38 percent and 31 percent. MSSU went 13-of-16 from the foul line and had the higher percentage there until the Hornets sank eight free throws in the final 43 seconds.
But the Lions had 27 turnovers, and the Hornets owned advantages of 21-13 in points off turnovers and 8-3 in second chance points.
“I feel like that’s the best ball game we’ve played all year,” Skiles said. “I know we’ve had wins, but I don’t think we played even that well in the wins we have as we did today. Turnovers got us, but I’m so proud of our effort. If we keep playing with that effort from here on out, I feel like we’ll win the rest of our ball games.”
“I thought our defensive effort was really good for 40 minutes,” Ressel said. “We had a few breakdowns here and there, but coming off losing Chas, a kid getting 15 points and seven boards a game, and to play like we did, I’m really proud of our kids and the effort they gave.”
Skiles, 5-foot-10 sophomore from Purdy, popped in a career-high 20 points for the Lions, hitting 6-of-9 field goals, 4-of-5 treys and 4-of-6 free throws in 38 minutes.
“Layne was huge,” Ressel said. “It’s one of those things that sometimesa kid kind of takes a back seat in her mind because of Chas and Destiny, and she doesn’t want to try to do too much. With Chas gone now, she has the mindset that she has to do more, and she did great today. I’m proud of Layne and what she did today, both offensively and defensively.”
Cozart hit 5-of-11 treys for 15 points, and Buch chipped in with 12.
“Everyone contributed,” Skiles said. “Chas is out and she’s a big part of our team, but a lot of people stepped up and we played together as a whole team. It’s a team sport, and if you want to be a great team, you have to play as a team.”
Jobe, a freshman guard, tallied 22 points for the Hornets, and Grace Gordon added 11 off the bench.