Lions clinch 10th straight MIAA Tournament bid with 73-62 win over Nebraska-Omaha

Omaha, Neb. -- Jolea Apon and Jasmine Lovejoy combined for 51 points to lead the Missouri Southern Lions to a 73-62 win over the Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks Thursday evening (Feb. 25) at Sapp Fieldhouse in Omaha, Neb.  The win secures an MIAA Postseason Tournament appearance for the 10th straight season for the Lions, including all nine seasons under current head coach Maryann Mitts.

The Lions carried a four-point lead into the second half but the Mavericks jumped on top by the scoring the first five of the half behind two free throws from Alyssa Green and a three by Heather Pohl. 

Apon quickly put the Lions back in front with a pair of freebies and then nailed a trey as part of an 8-1 spurt that gave the Lions a 48-41 lead. 

Southern was up 50-46 when a layup by Lovejoy and another three from Apon gave the Lions their largest to that point at nine points at the 8:24 mark of the second half.

Green kept the Mavericks within striking distance with a layup and a pair of free throws that kept the lead at seven, but a layup by Kelby Fritz and two free throws from Michelle Hedgecock pushed the Lion lead into double-figures at 63-51 with 3:44 remaining.

The Mavericks came as close as six in the final minute as Green nailed a three and hit a layup with 58 seconds left that made it 66-60. 

Apon and Lovejoy though would ice the victory for the Lions at the charity stripe by combining to hit 7-of-8 from the foul line down the stretch.

The Mavericks (12-14, 7-12 MIAA) opened the game much like they did the second half by scoring the first five points in the first minute of the contest.

The Lions (15-11, 9-10 MIAA) then rolled off seven straight behind jumpers from Apon and Erin Rice and a layup from Lovejoy.

UNO continued the back-and-forth spurts with 11 straight for a nine-point advantage at the 10:29 mark of the first half.

The lead was 10 for the Mavericks when Apon hit two treys that were sandwiched around a pair of free throws from Hedgecock that cut the deficit to 18-16.

Another three by Apon gave the Lions their first lead since the early going at 25-24 with 5:32 left in the opening half.

The remainder of the first half featured four ties and four lead changes.  The Lions led by one when Lovejoy converted a three-point play with two seconds left that pushed the lead to 39-35 at the break.

Apon scored a game-high 27 on 6-of-16 overall from the field, 5-of-13 from beyond the arc and a career-best 10-of-12 at the charity stripe.  Lovejoy scored 24 and recorded a game-high 10 rebounds. 

Green led the Mavericks with 19 points, while Pohl added 14 and a team-high seven boards.

After each team shot 42.9 percent (12-of-28) from the field in the first half, things cooled off offensively for both schools in the second half.  The Lions were only 24 percent (6-of-25) from the floor in the second half, but more than made up for that by getting to the free-throw line and shooting a blistering 83.3 percent (20-of-24) from the charity stripe. 

The Lions' defense limited the Mavericks to only a 23.1 percent (9-of-39) shooting clip in the second half.

The Lions will now wrap up the regular season on the road in Maryville, Mo. against the Northwest Missouri State Bearcats on Saturday afternoon (Feb. 27) at 12:30 p.m. The Bearcats won 75-67 over the Lions in Joplin in the season's first matchup (Jan.20).