Southern set to go for MIAA Tourney

Freshman point guard Karina Kuczynski looks to pass the ball into the post against Missouri Western. The Lions will play Northwest today in Kansas City.

Jesse Cordova

Freshman point guard Karina Kuczynski looks to pass the ball into the post against Missouri Western. The Lions will play Northwest today in Kansas City.

[Editor’s note: As of press time, the MIAA post-season tournament had yet to begin. For results please see]

Coming off two huge wins at home to close out the regular season, the Missouri Southern Lions are heading to Kansas City.

For the women, after defeating No. 2 Missouri Western at home, they find themselves in fifth place heading into the MIAA tournament at Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City.

“Right now we are playing our best basketball,” said head coach Maryann Mitts. “We have had a disappointing season, but we peaked at the right time and we guaranteed ourselves a winning season.”

Dana-Mae Robbs used Senior Night to say farewell to the Southern fans with 18 points.

“There is an old saying which fits Dana-Mae,” Mitts said. ” ‘You knock me down, and I’ll get back up.’ With the hand injury, she’s missed some games, but she came back. Her leadership and presence makes others better.”

Danielle DeVader, Robin Kantin, and Tyneshia Pierce also contributed to the win with key baskets at the free-throw line.

“Most people forget that Danielle is a redshirt freshman,” Mitts said. “She’s our best free throw shooter.”

During the last part of the season, Mitts said the team has made some improvements.

“The first is we have been finishing in the paint; the second is we’ve been aggressive from the free throw line,” she said. “Our post play, whether Dana-Mae, Tyneshia or Fatai (Hala’api’api) is on the court, has improved, as well as the defensive effort. We’re having fun and we are recognizing what defense and effort can do.”

The Lions finish the conference schedule the same way they began, winning three out of four games.

Heading into the tournament, the Lions will face the fourth-seeded Northwest Missouri State University Bearcats. The Bearcats swept the regular season meetings between the two.

“This game will be different,” Mitts said. “We’re playing better basketball. We are executing our plays. We also have Dana for this contest.”

One big difference in the game itself will be the factor of the neutral court, Kansas City’s Municipal Auditorium.

“It’s huge,” Mitts said. “Northwest is a three-point shooting team, and it’s hard to shoot threes because there is no backdrop behind the basket. We have a good post game.”

The game also provides another challenge for the Lions.

“This is the sixth year in a row we’ve gone to the MIAA tournament,” Mitts said. “Outside of the first year, we haven’t made it past the first round.”

No matter what happens, Mitts is very pleased with her squad.

“In a not so easy season, I’m excited for the opportunity these girls have” she said. “So many times during the season we probably should have quit. It’s a complete reflection of the tenacity of the team that they played strong.”

MIAA conference awards were announced Tuesday, with Kantin and Robbs each receiving a selection to the All-Conference Honorable Mention team.

The men also have earned the right to do battle in Kansas City with an 82-70 win over Missouri Western. The win secured the eighth and final playoff spot for the Lions.

“It’s been a disappointing year,” said head coach Robert Corn. “The guys still kept trying. They weren’t ready to put their uniforms away.”

Deonte Cox led the Lions with 19 points, while Stanley Titsworth and T.J. Britton added 14 apiece. They shot 52 percent from the field and turned 10 Western turnovers into 18 points.

The Lions will also face Northwest, the No. 1 seed in the men’s bracket.

“To my knowledge, a number eight seed has never beaten a number one seed,” Corn said. “We respect Northwest and the season they have had.”

The Lions and Bearcats split the regular season series, each winning on their respective home courts. On a neutral court, anything goes in this rubber match.

“We might tweak a few things, but we won’t make any overall changes” Corn said.

Northwest features the recently named conference most valuable player, Hunter Henry, who also is a unanimous first-team all-conference selection. The Bearcats also have freshman of the year Lance Sullivan, a second-team all-conference selection, and John Hawkins, an all-defensive team member.

“Henry provides a tough match up for us,” Corn said. “His speed, agility makes him tough to guard.”

For the Lions, Cox and Titsworth were named all-conference honorable mention selections when the honors were announced Monday.

“I’m sure they are pleased to be recognized,” Corn said. “It’s something to be proud of.”