TOPEKA, Kan. -- The Pittsburg State women's basketball team continued to make history as they won the program's first NCAA Tournament game, defeating Central Missouri, 74-70, in the tournament opening round on Friday, March 9 at Lee Arena in Topeka, Kan.
The Gorillas had a 19-point lead at the half, but a tough press by the Jennies in the second half, led to an exciting second half that was tied with under a minute left in the game.
The game was tied 70-70 with 59 second left when Central Missouri turned the ball over and Pittsburg State called a timeout. The Gorillas got the ball in and turned it over, leading to a Central Missouri timeout. The Jennies missed a shot that was rebounded by PSU's Brooke Conley. The Pitt State offense went to work, with Jeronimus hitting a layup with a second left on the shot clock and 18 seconds on the game clock to put Pitt State up 72-70.
After a Central Missouri timeout, Larissa Richards got a steal and hurled the ball down court to Jeronimus who hit the final layup at the buzzer for the win.
Jeronimus led the team with 29 points. Eleven of her points came from the charity stripe. Drew Roberts added 19 points and Brooke Conley chipped in 17. Hailey Roderique came off the bench to lead the team in rebounds with eight. She also had two steals. Conley, Jeronimus and Richards each added six rebounds.
The Jennies had four players in double figures, led by Shaquanda Wiggins with 15. Taylor Hanson added 13, Alyssa Rhodes 11 and Kaneesha Lee 10.
Pittsburg State led 40-21 at the half. The Gorillas were tough on both ends of the court in the first half. The team shot 52 percent from the floor, while holding the Jennies to just 32 percent. Pitt State also outrebounded the Jennies 22-14 in the opening half.
Roberts hit a pull up jumper in the lane on Pitt State's second possession of the game to get the Gorillas going. Central Missouri tied the game at 2-2 on Kaneesha Lee free throws, but Roberts pulled up for another jumper to give the Gorillas a 4-2 leads and they never looked back.
The Gorillas went on an 8-0 run lasting over four minutes to take their first double digit lead of the game, 18-6, with 12:44 remaining. A Renee Shippy layup with 8:05 on the clock cut the lead to just eight, but on the ensuing Gorilla possession, Jeronimus knocked down two free throws to take the lead back to 10, 24-14.
The opening minutes of the second half were nerve-wracking as the Jennies used a very effective press to outscore the Gorillas 21-4 in the first five minutes of the half. Taylor Hanson knocked down a long three with 14:52 left to bring the Jennies within two, 44-42.
The run continued and the Jennies took over the lead, 45-44, on a Hanson layup with 12:47 on the clock. The teams traded baskets, leading to six lead changes and four ties until a Jeronimus layup with 8:38 on the clock gave the Gorillas a 58-56 lead that they did not relinquish.
The team built the lead up to eight, 68-60 on another Jeronimus layup with 5:43 to go. The excitement was not over yet, however, as the Jennies scored on three straight possession to cut the lead to two. The two teams continued to battle and Central Missouri tied the game two more times, at 69-69 and 70-70 before Jeronimus scored the last four points of the game for the win.
The Gorillas continue South Central Regional play on Saturday at 5 p.m. against Northeastern State.