Emporia State has already established a tradition by playing in the NCAA Division II women’s basketball tournament in 17 of the last 19 seasons, but this year’s team is looking to make a new mark.
The Hornets, after three consecutive defeats in the regional finals, broke through to the Elite Eight this March for the first time since winning their only national championship after the 2010 season. They will play West Texas A&M at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday in a national quarterfinal at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls, S.D.
Emporia State coach Jory Collins was on the bench for that national title, but as Brandon Schneider’s lead assistant. Schneider then moved to Division I, becoming the coach at Stephen F. Austin, and Collins took over the Hornets. After an NCAA Tournament near-miss in his first season, losing the MIAA Tournament title game, Collins has taken Emporia State to the NCAAs four straight years, compiling a 22-5 record in March with three consecutive MIAA postseason titles.
Collins’ most-tenured player is senior Merissa Quick, the school’s career blocked-shots leader and the only Hornet to start in each of the team’s NCAA Tournament games the last four years. Her defense has helped the Hornets hold opponents to 33 percent shooting on the season.
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Quick, a 6-foot-3 forward from Cheney, Kan., is 31 points from moving into a tie for sixth in career points at Emporia State and is the only active Division II women’s player with at least 1,500 career points and 900 rebounds.
She and Kelly Moten, a 5-8 sophomore from Gary, Ind., form a strong inside-outside combination. But don’t discount Moten’s skills in the paint. She grabbed a career-high 13 rebounds to go with 20 points in the Hornets’ 66-61 win at host Fort Hays State in the NCAA Central Regional final. Moten also was the catalyst in Emporia State’s 49-46 win over Hays in the MIAA Tournament title game at Municipal Auditorium, with 16 points and 13 rebounds, plus the go-ahead layup.
Those two victories over Hays avenged two regular-season losses to the Tigers. The only other losses for the Hornets, excluding a four-point loss at D-I Kansas State in an exhibition, were by one point at Central Missouri and by two points in overtime to Northeastern State.
The Hornets, 28-4 and ranked ninth in Division II, face a West Texas A&M team with a familiar face on the bench. Buffs coach Mark Kellogg is 0-3 against the Hornets — losing to them as Fort Lewis’ coach in the 2010 NCAA title game, as Northwest Missouri’s coach in 2012-13 and a season ago after taking over at A&M. The Buffs, 30-2, are ranked fifth.
If Emporia State wins, it would play at 6 p.m. Wednesday vs. the Nova Southeastern-California (Pa.) winner in the semifinals. The championship game is scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday.
▪ Freshman Katelynn Flaherty scored 26 points in Michigan’s 74-58 win over Toledo on Monday in Toledo, Ohio.
The Wolverines will play Missouri on Thursday in the round of 16.