Joplin, Mo. - With the Missouri Southern Lions trailing by one, Jasmine Lovejoy stepped to the free-throw line and hit two game-winning free throws to propel the Lions to a dramatic 62-61 over the Southwest Baptist Bearcats Monday night (Dec. 28) at the Leggett & Platt Athletic Center. The Lions defeated the Bearcats for the sixth straight time overall and for the 10th consecutive time in Joplin.
The Lions got a crucial defensive stop to keep it a one-point game by forcing an SBU miss to get the ball back with 5.3 seconds left.
Lovejoy then promptly drove the length of the court to draw a foul with just one second left in the game and nailed the game-winning freebies.
With the game knotted at 52, the Lions went on a 7-1 spurt to take a 59-53 advantage at the 2:24 mark of the second half.
The Bearcats responded with a three from Courtney Heady and a three-point play by Ashleigh Gallio to quickly tie the score with with 1:30 left.
Michelle Hedgecock split a pair at the charity stripe to give the Lions a one-point lead, but Freddie Sims gave the Bearcats the lead right back with a layup with 59 seconds left.
Both squads fought through a sluggish offensive performance in the first half, as the Lions managed only a 25.8 percent (8-of-31) shooting clip in the opening half but limited the Bearcats to 35.7 percent (10-of-28) from the field.
The Lions (8-2, 2-1 MIAA) scored the first five points of game on a pair of free throws by Lovejoy and a three from Randi Henderson. The Lions held the Bearcats without a field goal for more than five minutes until a jumper by Heady got the Bearcats on the board at the 14:47 mark.
A three-point play by Lovejoy gave the Lions a 8-4 lead before Rachel Graves hit a three and made a layup that brought the Bearcats even at 9-9 with 11:49 left in the half.
The score was tied 13-13 when Jasmine Sanford converted a three-point play that gave the Bearcats their first lead of the contest at the 7:20 mark of the first half.
SBU (2-8, 0-3 MIAA) led 19-16 but a three by Jolea Apon and a layup from Myriah Hicks gave the Lions a two-point lead with 3:31 left in the opening half.
Apon hit another trey that once again gave the Lions a three-point edge at 24-21, but the Bearcats closed out the first half strong by scoring the final eight points to take a 29-24 lead at the break.
Lovejoy tallied a game-high 23 points and nine rebounds. She made 11-of-14 from the foul line, including the two crucial shots at the end. Apon reached double-figures with 11 points and led the Lions with five assists.
Graves led the Bearcats with 13 points and Heady added 10. Sanford scored eight and recorded a team-high eight boards.
After struggling offensively in the first half, the Lions rebounded to shoot 45.8 percent (11-of-24) from the field in the second half. SBU's shooting woes continued in the second half with a 33.3 percent (7-of-21) shooting clip.
The Lions will be right back in action with a matchup at Missouri Western on Wednesday evening (Dec. 30) at 5:30 p.m. in St. Joseph, Mo. The Lions and Griffons split the season series last year, with each school winning at home.