After starting the first game of the season against Henderson State, Hailey Grant was admittedly a little disappointed when she was forced to transition to a reserve role. And what followed was a slump by her standards.
But on Thursday night, the lengthy 6-foot-1 guard/forward came alive.
Grant registered her first collegiate double-double as Missouri Southern topped Washburn 69-50 in a MIAA matchup inside the Leggett & Platt Athletic Center. The Claremore (Okla.) High School product notched career-highs with 13 rebounds and 3-point field goals made with three treys on the way to scoring 12 points.
“It’s nice to finally get going,” Grant said. “I’m finally feeling like myself again — rebounding and scoring — it all came together tonight.”
“I thought Hailey had a great game,” MSSU head coach Ronnie Ressel said. “That’s the best game she’s had. She was chasing boards and defensively she played really well. Offensively, she made some shots. Anytime you have a kid dialed in on those different things like Hailey, we just continue to get better.”
The Lions (9-5, 6-3 MIAA) led from start to finish in the contest, outscoring the Ichabods in all but one quarter. Fifty points also marked the third-fewest allowed to Washburn in school history and the largest differential since 1986.
MSSU took the initial lead as Amaya Johns capped a 10-6 start with a 3 from the top of the circle before the first media timeout.
And that proved to be the only points Washburn scored in the first quarter.
MSSU followed with five unanswered points to take a 15-6 advantage as Johns capped a stellar first quarter with nine points. The Lions led 22-10 when Grant finished off a driving layup from the baseline on the left side with 5:49 to play.
But the Ichabods closed the gap to 28-19 at the break after a layup from Emma Chapman with 25 seconds to go in the first half.
Grant started to leave her mark in the second half when she flashed her ability to shoot the deep ball. In fact, she hit two treys — one from the left wing and the other from the corner — to punctuate a 13-9 burst as MSSU stretched its lead to 41-28 with 2:03 to play in the third quarter.
The Lions outscored Washburn 25-20 in the fourth quarter to secure a convincing 19-point victory.
“I thought our kids did a great job, especially on the defensive end,” Ressel said. “We executed our game plan. The kids are buying in as far as personnel and as far as how we need to defend with our baseline defense. That’s what we worked on all the time back in September. Our kids are doing a great job there. Offensively, we did a nice job, especially in the second half. We scored the ball really well and we had 17 assists on 24 made shots. That’s very nice.”
Lacy Stokes led the way for MSSU with 18 points on 5 of 11 shooting from the field and 8 of 12 from the foul line. The Mount Vernon product also finished with seven assists, five steals and five rebounds.
Coming off the bench, Johns added 15 points as the Lions accumulated 30 points from their reserves. Purdy product Layne Skiles chipped in 10 points.
“I feel like our bench hasn’t had much of a presence all season, but for us to all step up and for us to play our game, it was nice,” Grant said.
Hunter Bentley fired in a game-high 20 points to lead Washburn (5-8, 3-4 MIAA). She hit 7 of 14 shots, including 4 of 6 from beyond the arc and 2 of 2 from the line.
The loss snapped a four-game winning streak for the Ichabods, who knocked off Central Missouri 66-59 on Dec. 31, 2021.
MSSU plays Emporia State at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at Leggett & Platt Athletic Center.