Emporia State sophomore Kelly Moten was honest.
As it turns out, she was not supposed to have the ball on what turned out to be the decisive possession of Sunday afternoon’s women’s MIAA Conference tournament title game against Fort Hays State at Municipal Auditorium.
When Moten saw nothing between her and the rim, she acted. Moten drove down the right side of the lane, scoring the go-ahead layup in the final minute of Emporia State’s 49-46 victory.
It was the third consecutive MIAA Tournament title for Emporia State, 28-4, and its first win over the Tigers in three tries this season.
“The ball wasn’t supposed to be in my hands. I was supposed to throw it back to Flotty (Kathryn Flott),” Moten said with a smile. “They basically gave me my right side which is my strongest hand. I just took matters into my own hands. If I’d have missed the layup, I would have been in trouble. I thought they called a charge for a minute, but they didn’t. It was an ‘and one,’ and I was so excited.”
Moten, who finished with 16 points, was named the tournament’s most outstanding player.
“They were jamming the ball screen, and there was no help coming off of it,” Emporia State coach Jory Collins said. “The lane just opened up and she was able to drive all the way to the rim.”
Fort Hays State, 28-2, was fighting uphill throughout the game, despite losing only one conference game during the regular season.
The Tigers took their only lead of the game with 55 seconds to play when Nikola Kacperska, who finished with a game-high 19 points, drilled a jumper, capping a 9-3 run.
“It’s a championship game. Everyone wants to win. I’ve been here last year, and it’s bad to lose,” Kacperska said. “I want to win so bad, and when we got up one I thought we could win this thing. But everything changed with one possession.”
Kacperska got a look at a desperation game-tying three-pointer in the final seconds, but her shot from the right wing was well off the mark.
“We had a tough time executing today for some reason. You can always find an excuse, except there isn’t one,” Fort Hays coach Tony Hobson said. “You aren’t going to shoot 30 percent and win many games, and five-for-12 from the (free throw) line isn’t going to win you many.”
Pittsburg State made both school and conference history with a 91-65 dismantling of Missouri Southern in Sunday’s men’s MIAA Conference tournament championship game.
It was the first tournament title in school history. And the Gorillas, as a No. 5-seed, became the lowest seeded team to claim the trophy.
Pitt State, 20-11, took control with a 21-4 run midway through the first half.
“It was definitely our defense. That’s been the key all year. That’s what our team is built on,” Pitt State sophomore Josiah Gustafson said of the run.
The Gorillas took advantage of 18 Missouri Southern turnovers, including 12 in the first half. They had a 24-2 advantage over Missouri State in points off turnovers.
“Their pressure really bothered us to start the game. They took us out of everything we wanted to do. They pressured our guards, they pressured our wings and didn’t let us get catches,” Missouri Southern coach Jeff Boschee said. “It was a very physical game, and we just weren’t ready to play.”
Pitt State got 24 points from Trey Starks, who was named the tournament’s most outstanding player. Gustafson chipped in with 14.
Starks was a transfer who didn’t join the team until midway through the season. It didn’t take him long to fit in, though.
“He came right in and worked really hard from the start and fit in great with our group. He takes a lot of pressure off me and Devon (Branch) as scorers,” Gustafson said. “And he has a knack for putting the ball in the hoop especially when the game is heating up.”
Missouri Southern got 18 points from Austin Wright, and 11 each from Taevaunn Prince and Greg Renfro. The Lions’ moxie dwindled after ousting nemesis Central Missouri in Saturday’s semifinal, and they never found it on Sunday.
“I didn’t feel like tonight we didn’t come out with the swagger we had the last two games. Even to begin the game,” Wright said. “I know our guys were ready to play. We’ve been here before and we were ready to get another ring. I just didn’t feel the vibes, the swagger we came out with (on Saturday).”