JOPLIN - Thanks to a last-second jumper from Missouri Western failing to fall in and a career-high 17 points from freshman guard Sharese Jones, the Missouri Southern women's basketball team held off the Missouri Western Griffons for a thrilling 78-76 win tonight at the Leggett & Platt Athletic Center.
In addition to Jones' career night, three other Lions (8-3, 2-1) finished the night in double figures as Samantha Soyez finished with 11 points, while Erin Rice and Jolee Sharp each finished with 10 points. Dominique Mosley also had a strong game finishing with eight points and a game-high nine rebounds.
The Griffons (9-3, 2-2) were led on the night by Heather Howard, who finished with 14 points and eight rebounds, while Denise White chipped in 11 points.
With the Lions jumping out to a 5-0 lead to start the game thanks to a jumper from Rice and a three-point play from Shatara Stone, the Lions held the Griffons off the scoreboard through the first 5:21 of play before a Western layup made it 5-2. The Lions would lead throughout most of the first half extending their lead to as many as nine (19-10), before the Griffons slowly chipped away at the lead before taking their first and only lead of the first half on a free throw with 1:35 remaining. The Lions would regain the lead on a jumper from the free throw line from Rice. The teams would trade layups in the final minute of the first half giving the Lions a one-point lead headed into the locker room.
The second half saw the quick pace of the first half pick right back up as the Lions scored the six of the first eight to take a 48-43 lead. The Griffons would respond with seven of the next nine points to tie the game at 50 apiece with 15:44 remaining.
Southern responded with a 7-0 run, including a pair of layups from Jones, to go up 57-50, but the Western would respond with a 8-0 run of its own to take its first lead of the second half at 58-57. The teams would trade the lead five times over the next 6:43 as a layup from Jones tied up the game at 70 with 4:13 remaining.
A layup from Tee Singleton helped the Lions regain the lead, but Western responded with a three-pointer before a go-ahead three point play from Jones gave the Lions the lead for good at 75-73. The Griffons would hit one of two free throws before Nicole Hartzog sunk a pair of free throws to take a three-point lead. Western's Alicia Bell would respond hitting a pair of free throws to cut the lead back to one before a free throw from Soyez sealed the Lions' second conference win of the year.
The Lions' shot 26-of-52 (.500) from the field on the evening, going 23-of-29 (.793) from the free throw line. Despite being outscored for the first time all year off the bench 41-33, the Lions used their stong inside presence to outrebound the Griffons 39-34.
The Lions' return to MIAA action Thursday evening when they travel to St. Charles, Mo. to take on the Lindenwood University Lions (3-8, 0-3) at 5:30 p.m.