(TOPEKA, Kan.) – The 13th-ranked Central Missouri Jennies kept things close, but could never quite get over the top, falling to the 5th-ranked Washburn Lady Blues, 59-53, on the road in the regular season finale.
The Jennies missed out on a chance to win a share of their first MIAA regular season title since 1995-96, but will instead settle for the No. 2 seed in next week’s MIAA Tournament.
Junior Keuna Flax finished with a team-high 18 points, as the team’s outside shooting fell flat throughout the game. The Jens shot just 2-of-25 from beyond the arc, with their second three-pointer coming in the closing seconds of the game.
The Jennies (22-4, 14-4 MIAA) fell behind early, as they struggled to find their shot, especially from deep. UCM started the game by hitting just three of its first 20 field goal attempts, and were 0-for-10 from beyond the arc until Kiersten Orton finally broke through with the Jennies first trey at the 8:28 mark of the first half. Washburn reached their biggest lead of the first half when Laura McMillin hit a jumper to push the Lady Blues ahead 19-7 with 9:46 to play until the half.
The Jens recovered to go 7-for-17 to close out the half, digging out of their 12-point deficit with a 14-2 run. Flax took over the UCM attack in the closing five minutes of the half, and helped pull the Jens even with a layup at the 4:57 mark while drawing the foul. The junior missed the free throw to close out the three-point play, but after Nicole Caddell pulled down the offensive rebound, BreAnna Lewis knocked down a mid-range jumper to pull even with the Lady Blues at 21-21. Washburn claimed a narrow lead on their next possession, and headed into the locker room with a four-point lead, 29-25. The Jennies out-rebounded Washburn, the top rebounding team in the MIAA, 23-22 in the first half.
Flax and Caddell teamed up for back-to-back scores to open up the second half, tying the game at 29-29. Washburn would quickly reclaim the lead, before the Jens would tie the score again at 33-33 with a pair of free throws from Orton, who finished with a season-high five points in the game. WU’s Lavonda McCall would hit a pair from the charity stripe on the other end, and the Lady Blues would hold a single-digit lead the rest of the way.
The Jens were able to get to the line, going 17-of-21 (81%) on free throws, keeping them in the game. Keuna Flax hit a pair with 3:55 remaining to close the Jens to within three, at 52-49. From that point, Washburn closed out the game on a 7-1 run, before Quinnecia Twine hit a trey with 11 seconds remaining.
Lewis struggled from outside, but was able to get to the basket, and recorded her first career double-double for the Jennies, with 11 points and 12 rebounds. Caddell finished with eight points and seven rebounds in the loss.
As the end of the regular season comes to a close, the Jennies finish second in the final MIAA regular season standings, their highest finish since 1999-00. They earn a bye through the first round of the MIAA Tournament, and will face the winner of Missouri Western at Pittsburg State in the quarterfinal round at Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City.
The tournament match-up is at 6 p.m Friday, March 8. Tickets for the MIAA Tournament are available. The game will also be heard on 98.5 The Bar, 1450 KOKO, and online at www.warrensburgradio.com.