Basketball season comes to close at home

Even though Missouri Southern just defeated Central Oklahoma at home on Feb. 25, the Lions faced Central Oklahoma in the regular season finale on March 2.

The game was  back and forth; the Lions were responding to each play by the Bronchos and kept the score within five points.

The Lions tied the game with just under two minutes left as junior Shonté Clay sank two free throws to put the Lions up by one.

To secure the win in the last three seconds, Sharese Jones made her two free throws to give the Lions a 63-59 win over the Bronchos.

“At the end when they [UCO] went on their run and came back, our defensive stops were key to us winning,” sophomore Nicole Hartzog said.

With the win over UCO, the Lions returned home to host a first-round MIAA Tournament game against Northwest Missouri on Tuesday.

Five minutes into the second half, Northwest was up by 18 points, and that is when reality sunk in and the Lions took charge.

Throughout the next nine minutes of the game the Lions went on a 26-6 run, where Rice would score 10 points, as the Lions took the lead 59-57.

With just a minute left the Lions were down by eight and narrowed the Bearcats lead to four, as Rice sunk a three pointer and Hartzog made a layup, but that wasn’t enough.

The Lions fell to Northwest 77-72. The loss left Head Coach Maryann Mitts and a couple other plays in tears as they had  played their hearts on during their last game.

“We knew going into this year that we had the toughest schedule in Division II basketball, we had 11 new kids that arrived on this campus last June and became a family,” said Mitts as she teared up.

“I’m just proud of these kids, I don’t think people understand the amount of work that goes into what they see on game day.”

The Lions have every player returning for next season except for Rice, who played a vital role for the Lions not only this season, but through her entire career.

“Sometimes she [Rice] just never wanted to be the star. She always wanted to put the team first.

“She was more excited when her teammates did well than when she herself did well,” Mitts said.