From the sideline, Northwest women’s basketball coach Austin Meyer could be heard screaming at his offense, looking to tie the game at 51 heading into the final three minutes of the contest Jan. 19 against Emporia State in Bearcat Arena.
Northwest freshman forward Jillian Fleming heard her coach and received the ball, hoping to prove that she belonged out on the court despite her inexperience at the collegiate level.
Driving into the lane, Fleming took contact from the Emporia defense, and although she wasn’t awarded a free throw, she made her contested layup.
An eruption rose from the separated crowd at Bearcat Arena as the Bearcats (3-6) were going toe-to-toe with the Hornets, a team they haven’t beat since 2009.
That eruption was soon quieted, as Emporia (6-2) sophomore point guard Tre’Zure Jobe, the reigning women’s MIAA Freshman of the Year, rose above Bearcat guard Jaelyn Haggard and nailed a 3-pointer, one that sealed a 58-51 victory for the Hornets.
“She is a heck of a player. There’s no way around that; she can shoot it, she can drive and that’s what makes her difficult to guard,” Haggard said about Jobe. “There late, I know that was kind of on me. She had two buckets back-to-back in really crucial times, so that was tough. I can’t let that happen.”
While Jobe finished with a game-high 29 points, the Hornets’ offense was struggling to find the bottom of the basket. Emporia was held to 35% shooting from the field in the first half with six players not scoring more than 6 points.
“We were really into the game defensively, and that’s one thing I thought in the first half of Kearney; we were really into it. It’s a good sign that we’re playing well defensively,” Meyer said. “Jobe is as good of a player as there is in this league at the point guard position. … She made plays at the end of the game when it was winning time, and that’s what she does.”
After going 1-6 from three in the first half, Haggard put the Bearcats on her back. Haggard started the quarter going 3-for-3 from beyond the arc, including an off-balance shot that pushed the Bearcats to a 38-31 lead with four minutes remaining in the third quarter.
“Going into halftime, I missed four or five (shots) probably, so I kind of had to reset my mind. The coaches have a lot of confidence in me shooting, so I just had to step up, and it was a close game,” Haggard said. “A lot of games I don’t get that open, so I think once I knocked down a couple obviously that raises your confidence a little.”
As the Bearcats built its lead to 10 points, their largest of the night, senior guard Kylie Coleman fell to the ground going after a rebound, resulting in her wincing in pain as she grabbed her left knee.
While no official word was released on her condition after the matchup, Coleman was helped off the court and wasn’t able to put any pressure on her left leg. She didn’t return the rest of the contest.
“That hurts big time. I think it kind of gave us a sick flashback to what happened with Emma (Atwood) at practice. There for a second, kind of everything stops, and that’s all you can think about. She’s a crucial player on this team, and you know we care about her more than anything,” Haggard said. “That definitely hurt just from a personal standpoint, but as far as basketball-wise goes, she was making things happen on the floor.”
Coleman, who tallied 10 points before the injury, was a key factor in helping Northwest hold onto the lead for 22 minutes of game time. Once she left, the wheels began to fall off for the Bearcats.
Heading into the final quarter, Northwest was stopped offensively and was outscored 18-4 by the Hornets. The ’Cats scored seven baskets in the final 20 minutes, unable to find a consistent shooter.
“We struggled. We were pretty gassed there in the fourth quarter. Obviously, at this point, with the people we have out, to lose Kylie in that situation, it’s tough,” Meyer said. “We just didn’t have enough scoring at that point, just her being a threat out on the floor.”
Emporia, the team that knocked Northwest out of the MIAA tournament last season, secured its 14th straight win against the Bearcats. Emporia moved to fifth in the MIAA rankings with the win and the Bearcats fell to ninth with the loss.
“We told them in the locker room that you get a chance to move on pretty quick, so you can’t sit with it for too long,” Meyer said. “Obviously, they’re a really good team. It’s been a long time since Northwest Missouri State has beaten Emporia State, and we were right there. Obviously, we want to win the game, but we’re right there.”
The Bearcats will have another chance to get back on track Jan. 21 when they host Newman in Bearcat Arena.