Michael Bauer | reporter
The Pittsburg State Gorillas took a step closer to clinching a first-round bye in the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association (MIAA) tournament with a 63-60 win over the Emporia State Hornets.
Against fourth-place Emporia, the Gorillas ended the Hornets’ nine-game winning streak, while extending their own streak to four.
The game went back and forth throughout. There were six lead changes alone in the first half.
“We really grew up,” said head coach Lane Lord in an interview with KKOW 860 AM. “This is a team with a lot on its back. We control our own destiny to win these games and get into the tournament.”
The Gorillas found themselves with a 27-21 lead after back-to-back field goals by sophomore foward Lizzy Jeronimus at 2:40 in the first half. She was the leading scorer with 16 points.
The Hornets weren’t going to go down without a fight as they quickly fought back to a one-point deficit, going into the locker rooms at halftime, after a 7-2 run.
Merissa Quick showed why she was one of the best players in the conference by finishing with 31 points and going 13-20 on field goals and 5-6 from the line.
“Marissa Quick had an awesome game,” Lord said. “This was probably the best I’ve seen her play against us.”
Only 20 seconds into the second half, Jeronimus picked up her first foul, and the Hornets went to the line to tie the game at 30.
From there, it was the Hornets’ turn to take control, and they went on an 8-1 run.
However, it didn’t take long for the Gorillas to catch back. A scoop and score by junior guard Lauren Brown cut the deficit to one with 12:30 remaining and she was not finished, either.
After a ineffective first half, Brown came alive in the second, to finish with seven points.
“We really challenged her,” Lord said. “She was getting soft, but a lot of it had to do with our guarding. It really challenged her to get big in there and make some baskets. All in all, she did what we needed of her.”
A three-pointer by junior guard Alexa Bordewick tied the game at 42, before she hit another to put the Gorillas in front. Drew Roberts hit an outside shot to put Pitt State ahead by seven with 6:01 left.
“The magic number is four, that’s four threes in a row for the third-straight game,” Lord said on Bordewick’s performance. “She hit some big shots for us with the shot clock going down.”
Bordewick finished the night with 16 points and was 4-6 on inside shots.
The Gorillas had an eight-point lead with 3:44 remaining, but that was about to change.
A pair of free throws by Rachel Hanf, followed by a field goal from Quick and a three-pointer from Jocelyn Cummings (all in less than a minute) saw the Hornets with only a one-point deficit.
Brown was not going to let the Gorillas give it up.
She managed a put-back shot to make it 61-58.
Quick responded with a layup and the game was wide open with less than a minute to play.
Brigit Hesser was sent to the line where she made one of two, giving the Gorillas breathing room.
Quick missed an inside jumper as the clock expired. However, the game was not over yet. The referees saw that Emporia State’s Laura Patrick fouled Hesser, sending her back to the line with a fraction of a second on the clock. She hit one of two and sealed the game.
The Gorillas shot only 60 percent from the line, while the Hornets went 17-21, 81 percent, which concerned Lord.
“It’s a big deal,” Lord said. “Usually, 12-20 on the road gets you beat but tonight, we made three more baskets than they did, two more 3-pointers than they did.”
Pitt State shot 42 percent on field goals, outdoing the Hornets’ 36 percent. The Gorillas were 7-17 on 3-pointers while Emporia shot 5-19.
Needing a fourth-place finish in the conference to earn a bye, the Gorillas (16-7, 10-5) currently sit in seventh but are just one win behind Emporia (16-7, 11-4), which is in fourth place.
Pittsburg State is in a two-way race with Fort Hays State for sixth, and will need Truman State to also lose in order to move up in the standings during the three remaining games of the regular season.
The Gorillas play Central Oklahoma,UCO, on the road, Saturday, and look to avenge their early season lost to UCO.