It was a contrast of styles in the MIAA women’s championship Sunday at Municipal Auditorium.
The physical approach to Emporia State in the paint and the outside gunners of Pittsburg State who were on a 15-game winning streak.
But the team with the most experience, Emporia State, came away with its fourth consecutive MIAA Tournament title with an 80-66 victory.
“They were the hottest team in America,” Emporia state coach Jory Collins said of the Gorillas. “I was just proud of how we played. We played really tough. We played together.”
Leading the charge for the Lady Hornets was Kathryn Flott, who racked up another double-double by the end of the third quarter. Her tenacity on the glass and ability to back down the defender was the reason she was named the tournament’s most outstanding player.
Flott ended up with an impressive stat line of 17 points and 13 rebounds. While missing two years because of knee injuries, it truly was a special moment for her to make it back to this level of play.
“Getting to play in games like this is the reason you go through all of it,” Flott said of the journey.
Her coach also applauded her effort not only for this game but throughout the tournament.
“She was terrific posting up. They were switching on some ball screens and gave her some favorable matchups,” Collins said. "She finished at a high level, rebounded at a high level.”
Pittsburg State came out firing three pointers like it did on Saturday, but Emporia State locked down on defense.
The steady hand for Emporia State was Kelly Moten. Her 17 points and six assists were a key cause of the Hornet's success.
Sandra Ngoie was also efficient, taking her defender to the basket and pulling out for the occasional three as well. Her 14 points was a big reason Emporia stayed ahead. Addie Lackey also had a big contribution with 14 points.
However, the defensive effort by the Lady Hornets was the most impressive output. Holding a team like Pittsburg State to 39 percent shooting was not an easy task. The Gorillas only managed six three pointers, far below their average for the tournament.
Since the Gorillas were not hitting a bunch of threes, they had to rely on their guard Mikaela Burgess and senior forward Kylie Gafford to take it inside early on.
Burgess started to warm up in the third quarter, hitting two long-range shots to bring Pittsburg State closer. Despite her game-high 24 points, her team was not able to gain enough ground after Emporia State started making their threes down the stretch.
“With the success we’ve had from behind the arc this year it’s hard to tell us to stop shooting in the timeouts, Burgess said. “Our coaches aren’t going to say stop shooting threes. It’s tough to play in a game when the shots aren’t falling.”
As the Hornets enjoyed the moment with the trophy and cutting down the nets, they could not help but think about last year as well and the goals. After getting to the Final Four in 2015, it was time to enjoy this and then have a chance at another run.
“You just want to ride that into the tournament; you go into it playing with confidence knowing that if you got through our league with all the top 10 and 15 teams in the country in our conference," Collins said. " That doesn’t mean you’re going to win, but you know that you can win.”