On the heels of a loss to Missouri Southern Feb. 20 in Bearcat Arena, Northwest women’s basketball’s fate of an MIAA Tournament appearance was in the hands of conference foe Emporia State.
If the Bearcats (11-14, 6-10 MIAA) were able to beat the Lions, they were in. Southern (9-15, 6-10 MIAA) defeated Northwest 58-42. If the Bearcats are able to win any of their last three games, they’re in the conference tournament.
If Newman lost to Emporia, the Bearcats were in. At the buzzer in Wichita, Kansas, the Jets outed the Hornets, leaving Northwest’s clinching of a spot on hold for at least one more game. If Newman loses either of its last two games, the Bearcats are in.
Newman’s win over Emporia, Northwest coach Austin Meyer said, was a good thing.
“I probably wouldn’t have felt really good clinching a tournament spot after a game like that,” Meyer said. “I kinda like controlling our own destiny. … We put ourselves in a position to get to this point where we’ve got a chance to get a spot but I’d prefer us earn it rather than somebody else give it to us.”
For Newman, a win over the third-best team in the conference was unpredictable. The first time the two played, Emporia won by 29. Northwest was leaning on the win from Emporia to secure a spot before worrying about it throughout the last week of the regular season, a win that was almost expected.
With her jaw dropped in awe from hearing the results, junior guard Jaelyn Haggard wasn’t surprised by anything that occurred in Wichita.
“I mean I don’t think it’s that much of a shock,” Haggard said. “It’s coming down to our last handful of games. So every single team is trying to win, it doesn’t really matter who it is at this point.”
The meeting with Southern served as an opportunity for Northwest to avenge a loss to the Lions from a week prior. That opportunity, of course, dissipated with the defeat. On Feb. 13, the Bearcats traveled to Joplin, Missouri to face a Lions team that was vying for one of the last spots in the conference tournament. Southern managed to keep itself alive in the hunt with a 67-61 win.
The loss puts both teams knotted at ninth in the conference. Northwest, Southern and Newman are three teams that are fighting for two spots. For the Lions and Bearcats, it’d take utter catastrophe. For the Jets, it’d take perfection in their last two games and nothing but losses from one of the aforementioned teams.
For Northwest, the loss to Southern was in part due to a void left in the starting lineup by Kylie Coleman. The junior guard left the Bearcats’ Feb. 15 game against Pittsburg State with a head injury. That injury, Meyer said, placed Coleman in concussion protocol. She contributes 8 points per contest for Northwest and often serves as a spark when the offense goes anemic.
That spark was one that would be needed against the Lions, which was a game that Northwest shot 24.1% from the field. That spark is one the Bearcats didn’t have available in a time where it was most needed.
“I think that kind of hit us a little bit,” freshman forward Jayna Green said. “But I think that we still could’ve won. We’re still a good team without her.”
Green filled the hole left via Coleman’s absence, which was the freshman’s first collegiate start. Green, Meyer said, did good things throughout the contest. Meyer mentioned the things that the offense did to, sometimes, run through Green.
Green scored 3 points in the loss, coming off of a three-pointer in the first half. She was perfect on the night, that was the lone shot she attempted.
Collectively, the Bearcats struggled to find the bottom of the net. In the first half, they shot 21.7%. In the second, they shot 36%. That mark, compiled, led to the execution of shooting — or lack thereof — to be 24.1%.
“We don’t have a pinpoint answer,” Haggard said. “We don’t have, you know, a reason why stuff like that happens. It’s one game. It’s something we can learn from. … We wanna win so bad that we’re not focused on the possession itself.”
“They played with a lot of confidence,” Meyer said about Southern. “You can see it, if you look at the two teams, just how much more confident they were than us tonight.”
Southern shot 44% from the field against a Northwest team that touts its defense and three-point shooting as the strong suits. The shooting, of course, wasn’t all that effective for Northwest. Against the Lions, the defense wasn’t either, allowing Southern to shoot 9-for-17 from deep.
The loss isn’t something that the Bearcats have much time to dwell on, Haggard said. They have a matchup with Pitt in a rematch from the loss Northwest will be a week removed from when the two teams face each other again.
Behind the offensive struggles, defensive lapses and the win from Newman, the Bearcats are readying to fight their way into the conference tournament against the Gorillas.
“As far as our team goes, I think that’s just extra motivation,” Haggard said. “We gotta have that these next few games and see what we can make happen.”