When Northwest women’s basketball returned to Maryville after its two-game road trip, it was looking to avenge a loss that came via Central Missouri Dec. 7 in Warrensburg, Missouri.
Due to a 73-60 loss to the No. 18 Jennies Feb. 6, that didn’t happen.
“First of all, not winning at all is frustrating,” junior guard Mallory McConkey said. “Being that close makes it a lot harder.”
Central (18-3, 12-0 MIAA) took the best shot Northwest (10-11, 5-7 MIAA) had to offer for the first three quarters. Heading into the final 10 minutes of play, Central led 58-52.
It was the execution on the glass, or lack thereof, that willed the Jennies by the Bearcats. The most evident instance was in the fourth quarter, where Central outrebounded Northwest 17-5 and eventually ended up with an advantage of 45-27 on the boards.
The fourth quarter, for Central, was a culmination of everything that had happened the three quarters prior.
“We come down and work our tails off on offense to get a score,” junior guard Jaelyn Haggard said. “Then we come back down and we don’t get a stop. So, they were able to stop our runs and when we’re not able to stop theirs, that’s what carries over.”
The lack of rebounding execution, in some ways, has served as a plague for the Bearcats. Northwest is undefeated when it has an advantage on the glass. In the other games, of course, the Bearcats have struggled to find success.
Central tallied 21 offensive rebounds. Junior forward Nija Collier recorded 8 rebounds by herself. That mark, McConkey said, was more than the Bearcats wanted to give up as a whole. For coach Austin Meyer, he said, that was the eye-popping stat in the box score.
“Collier; she’s really good,” Meyer said. “She’s as good an athlete as there is in our league. We just didn’t do a good job of trying to move her out.”
“You can scheme. You can let them shoot. You can let their non-shooters shoot,” Meyer said. “But at the end of the day, you gotta be able to go get rebounds and until somebody does that, they’re gonna be tough to beat.”
For the Bearcats, Meyer said, the struggle is due to the size that Northwest presents to opposing teams. The tallest person in the starting lineup for Northwest against Central was freshman forward Paityn Rau, who stands 6 feet, 2 inches tall. The second-tallest is 5-foot-10.
Aside from their size, another reason, Haggard said, comes down to the psyche during the game. That, she added, is crucial.
“I think it’s just a mindset,” Haggard said. “Lately, we just gotta focus on that. That’s what’s going to win us games, so.”
The matchup gave Meyer a glance into the aspirations of the program that he soon wants to become. The Bearcats, of course, aspire to sit atop the MIAA as the Jennies do. The Bearcats, of course, want to have an undefeated record in the conference. The Bearcats, of course, weren’t capable of beating the team that they want to be.
That time, Meyer said, isn’t far away.
The loss, even though it snapped the winning-streak of Northwest, won’t cause confidence to waver heading down the stretch of the regular-season schedule. If anything, McConkey said, it wills the Bearcats to work harder.
The loss isn’t one that the Bearcats will hang their heads on. It’s one, Haggard said, that is more welcomed than other ones they’ve suffered during the season. It’s one, she added, that pits the Bearcats with a matchup against Lincoln Feb. 8 in Bearcat Arena, an opportunity the Bearcats are looking forward to.
“Not that there’s any excuse,” Haggard said. “But we knew how strong of a team they were coming into this. So if we’re going to lose to a team, I’d rather it be them than a team we know without-a-doubt we can handle. So I think we’re confident. … I have no doubt we can do big things after this.”