Joplin, Mo.. - Jolea Apon produced a game-high 18 points to lead the Missouri Southern Lions to their third straight victory by defeating the Arkansas-Fort Smith Lady Lions 68-49 in the final day of the MSSU Pizza Hut/Fairfield Inn Thanksgiving Classic Saturday afternoon (Nov. 28) at the Leggett & Platt Athletic Center.
The Lions held a 14-12 lead at the 10:53 mark of the first half when threes from Apon and Danielle Harris helped spark an 8-1 run that put the Lions up 22-13.
A layup from Jasmine Lovejoy gave the Lions their first double-digit lead at 28-17 with 5:02 remaining in the opening half.
LaTice Jones scored off an offensive rebound to give the Lions a 35-25 lead at the half.
Apon got the Lions started on the right note by nailing a three 45 seconds into the second half to give the Lions their biggest lead at that point of 38-25.
But the Lady Lions quickly answered on a free throw from Chelsea Sublett and a layup by Whitney Lee to again come within 10 at 38-28.
The Lions maintained a 43-33 advantage when seven straight points put the Lions in the driver's seat at 50-33 with 11:17 remaining. The run featured a layup from Jones, a three by Apon and was capped by a steal and a coast-to-coast layup by Lovejoy.
Vasha Sanders and Tracey Parsons hit consecutive layups that brought the Lady Lions (0-5) to within 13, but a pair of driving layups from Apon helped the Lions balloon the lead to 20 at 57-37 with 7:05 left.
The Lions' biggest lead of the game came on a three by Afton Baldwin that put Southern up 68-47 with just 40 seconds remaining.
Apon hit 7-of-14 overall from the field, including a perfect 3-of-3 from inside the arc to go along with six rebounds. Lovejoy scored 14 and had a game-high nine rebounds. Jones added 10 points.
Parsons was the lone Lady Lion in double-figures with 10 and Sublett led the Lady Lions with eight rebounds.
A terrific defensive effort from the Lions limited the Lady Lions to only 32.1 percent (18-of-56) overall from the field and 1-of-12 from three-point distance.
The Lions also forced 20 turnovers that turned into 26 points.
Lovejoy was the named the Tournament's Most Outstanding Player after averaging 16.5 ppg and 8.0 rpg during the Classic. Apon and Erin Rice were also All-Tournament honorees for the Lions.
The Lions will now gear up for their 2009-10 MIAA opener when they will host the Truman Bulldogs on Wednesday evening (Dec. 2) at 5:30 p.m. The Lions swept the Bulldogs last season.