The Pittsburg State women’s basketball team has come full circle this season.
After opening the season with a pair of victories at the South Central Regional Challenge in San Antonio, the Gorillas are back at the home of the Alamo for a bigger tournament: the Elite Eight of the NCAA Division II Tournament.
Pitt State plays Shaw (N.C.) University today in the national quarterfinals at 6 p.m.
“It’s so surreal to be here,” said freshman Lizzy Jeronimus, a Shawnee Mission West product. “I never thought it would happen. It’s so fun to be in San Antonio with my teammates and all the families that are coming. I just can’t believe it.”
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But the road to Texas was bumpy for the Gorillas. After finishing the regular season with a 23-5 record and a 17-3 mark in the MIAA, the Gorillas were upset in the quarterfinals of the conference tournament by Lincoln. It was the first time the Gorillas had ever lost to the Blue Tigers.
“We kind of went in there thinking we were going to win and were maybe a little too confident,” Jeronimus said. “It brought us back down to earth and made us play even harder in the regional.”
After qualifying for the NCAA Tournament as an at-large selection, Jeronimus stepped up her effort in the South Central Regional in Topeka. She scored 29 points in a 74-70 win against Central Missouri. That game was tied with 18 seconds to play, but Jeronimus made consecutive baskets to give the Gorillas the victory.
Next, she scored a team-high 17 points in a 68-54 victory against No. 11 Northeastern State, then turned in a masterpiece in the regional championship.
Jeronimus had 35 points and 10 rebounds as the Gorillas beat No. 23 Emporia State 79-67.
“That’s probably my best game ever,” Jeronimus said. “I really wanted to cut down the nets after the game.”
Jeronimus won the regional MVP award in what has become an accolade-filled season. She also was the conference’s freshman of the year after averaging a team-best 15.9 points to go along with 6.8 rebounds.
You could say that her success is a result of listening to Gorillas coach Lane Lord.
“Coach told me he had confidence in me and I didn’t really believe him,” Jeronimus said. “But as the season went on, I started to have a lot of success and started believing what he told me, and I just kept doing what I was doing.
“We wanted to come back and play in the same gym … and finish where we started.”