Northwest Missouri State hasn’t had much experience with do-or-die possessions, a happy side-effect of only losing one game this season heading into Saturday’s MIAA Tournament semifinals at Municipal Arena.
But on Saturday, the Bearcats needed a bucket, down one to Missouri Southern with 9 seconds to go.
The plan was not complicated.
“Get the ball to the little guy and get out of the way,” Northwest Missouri coach Ben McCollom said. “Pretty simple.”
The little guy — 5-9 guard Justin Pitts, who finished with a game-high 24 points — drew plenty of attention, so he kicked it out to 6-7 forward Zach Schneider.
Schneider came through, drilling a go-ahead three-pointer that propelled the Bearcats to a 67-63 victory. It was Schneider’s second basket of the game, and first since opening the scoring just 30 seconds into the game.
“I was pretty calm, honestly,” Schneider said. “I knew they weren’t going to let Justin take that last shot, so I was just ready, in position and just muscle memory there.”
The opportunity only came because D’Vante Mosby (14 points, eight rebounds) twice kept the possession alive by grabbing offensive rebounds in traffic. The Bearcats (29-1) finished with a 40-23 rebounding advantage.
“You’ve got to go after it. That’s kind of the game, and that’s my job in that moment,” Mosby said. “I’m glad I came up with them.”
Northwest Missouri avenged its only loss of the season, and will play Central Missouri at 1 p.m. Sunday for the MIAA tournament title.
Central Missouri 75, Nebraska-Kearney 57: Central Missouri coach Doug Karlesknit called it possibly the best 40 minutes his team played all year. The second-seeded Mules started hot and never looked back in dispatching Nebraska-Kearney in the semifinals.
“We just kind of punched them in the mouth. … We didn’t have very much slippage throughout the game,” Karlesknit said. “We caught Kearney on a night they didn’t shoot it very well, but I thought we were the aggressor tonight, and that’s what the key was.”
Central Missouri (21-8) owned a 34-27 edge in rebounds, and held the high-scoring Lopers to just 36.5 percent shooting.
“I just thought throughout the game, defensively, we stayed on it for 38, 39 minutes out of the 40,” Mules junior Spencer Reaves said.
Reaves scored a game-high 20 points, and senior Marquiez Lawrence finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds for Central Missouri.
Emporia State women headed to title game
The Emporia State women overcame a three-point deficit at the half to earn its seventh consecutive trip to the MIAA tournament title game with a 58-50 semifinals victory over Central Missouri at Municipal Auditorium.
The Hornets (26-4) clamped down defensively in the second half, holding Central Missouri (24-6) to just 17 points over the final 20 minutes. Central Missouri shot just 34 percent for the game, and missed all 11 three-point attempts.
“They’re a team that gets shots to go in,” Emporia State senior forward Kathryn Flott said. “They’re going to keep shooting and just build that confidence. I thought our defensive effort was great. Everyone did a fantastic job.”
Flott led the Hornets with 20 point and 10 rebounds.
Central Missouri got 13 points from Ashley Duffy.
Emporia State will play Central Oklahoma in the title game on Sunday at 3:30 p.m.
Central Oklahoma 84, Lindenwood 82: Fifth seeded Central Oklahoma became the lowest seed to reach the MIAA title game since 2008 by defeating ninth seeded Lindenwood.
Melinda Murillo led the Bronchos (25-6) with 18 points, and Shatoya Bryson finished with 17 points.
Lindsay Medlen scored 21 points for the Lions (14-16).
Sunday’s MIAA championships
WHERE: Municipal Auditorium
WHO: Men: (1) Northwest Missouri vs. (2) Central Missouri, 1 p.m.
Women: (3) Emporia State vs. (5) Central Oklahoma, about 3:30 p.m.