Sunday’s MIAA men’s tournament title game was taking forever, figuratively at least, thanks to a handful of lengthy official reviews and a Northwest Missouri State comeback that pushed the game into overtime.
All Central Missouri coach Kim Anderson wanted was for the darn thing to be over. He got his wish — not to mention a 79-76 overtime victory — after almost three hours.
“Maybe it’s because our backs were again the wall, but it couldn’t get over fast enough,” Anderson said. “That clock, I don’t think that thing was moving at all.”
Central Missouri, 22-7, won its sixth MIAA tournament title overall, and its fourth under Anderson. The Mules also got an automatic bid into the NCAA Division II national tournament. Central Missouri, the fourth seed, will play No. 5 Harding (Ark.) on Saturday in Mankato, Minn., in the Central Regional.
It wasn’t easy, though. Central Missouri seemed to have things well in hand after Charles Hammork drilled made a three-pointer and put his team up by eight with 3:50 to play. Central Missouri went cold after that, and Northwest, 22-10, erased slowly melted the deficit.
The Bearcats got within a point with 2 minutes to play, and Central Missouri couldn’t make it a two-possession game because it faltered at the free-throw line.
Dominique Long missed the front end of a one-and-one will 11 seconds left, and the Bearcats got the ball into the hands of Bryston Williams.
Williams, who finished with 27 points, drove the right side of the lane and calmly made the game-tying basket with 2 seconds left.
“My team and Coach have faith in me and I have confidence in myself,” Bryston said. “I was going to take it to the hole and hopefully finish.”
Northwest Missouri carried that momentum into overtime and led by two points heading into the final minute. That’s when Long drew a foul on a three-pointer and drained all three free throws, putting the Mules up for good.
“That was huge, and it’s a heads-up play and certainly a smart basketball play to realize he got the opportunity to get fouled,” Anderson said.
Northwest had a chance to tie the game with the same scenario with 4 seconds to play. Matt Wallace made the first of his three foul shots, but the second one rimmed out. He missed the third free throw intentionally, but the bounce just didn’t cooperate.
“He tried to miss it (to the) right, and he did. And of course it bounced the other way,” Northwest Missouri coach Ben McCollum said. “I had everybody loaded up on one side, and we were trying to tip it to that side.”
Tournament MVP Widgett Washington had 20 points and four steals for Central Missouri. Long had 16 points and Hammork added 10. The Mules scored 25 points off 20 Northwest turnovers.
“From first conditioning, we talked about this day and us working hard each and every day to become conference champs and tournament champs of the conference,” Washington said. “It means a lot because it’s in Kansas City and most of us are from here, and it means a lot because of how hard we worked. I think we deserved it.”
Northwest Missouri got 14 points from Grant Cozart, 13 from Dillon Starzl and 12 from Alex Sullivan.
“I’ll probably remember the loss. It hurts. I’ll remember this until we play next season. It’s gonna hurt until we step on that floor again and get a ‘W,’” Starzl said.
Women: Emporia St. 67, Central Missouri 51
Emporia State knows how it feels to win a national title, having done so in 2010. The Hornets didn’t know the feeling of winning an MIAA Conference tournament title, despite making their third straight appearance in the championship game Sunday.
They do now.
The Hornets, 21-8, got a team-high 22 points from forward Merissa Quick, who played only 19 minutes because of foul trouble.
Quick picked up her fourth foul with about 8 minutes to play. She made up for her absence by scoring eight straight points in the final 3 minutes to put the game away.
“It always feels great to win, and if I’m a contributing factor in that, it feels even better. Every player wants to do everything they can to get the ‘W.’”
Emporia State had plenty of help from outside as well. Rachel Hanf (17 points), Laura Patrick (eight points) and Rheanna Egli (10 points) combined to make eight three-pointers.
“Rachel and Laura have shot the three well all year long,” Emporia State coach Jory Collins said. “When you’re able to play inside out and score from the perimeter and the paint, it really opened some things up offensively.”
The Hornets, Jennies and Emporia State all made the NCAA Division II tournament. Washburn, the Central Region’s top seed, will be host to the tournament, which starts Friday. It will face No. 8 Emporia State, while No. 2 Central Missouri will take on No. 7 Southwestern Oklahoma State.
Central Missouri, meanwhile, had no such offensive flow to speak of Sunday. The Jennies, 21-5, lost the lead midway through the first half and never got it back.
“It’s different, getting back into your hotel at 11:30 after a game and then having to turn around and spring forward and losing an hour there, but it’s been an emotional roller coaster,” Central Missouri coach Dave Slifer said. “Unlike a lot of teams that lost this weekend we have another chance, and we’re going to be able to go to a regional tournament and see if we can get something accomplished.”
Keuna Flax led the Jennies with 21 points, and Nicole Caddell finished with 10.