The first-ever Missouri Valley Conference championship for the Wichita State women’s basketball team wasn’t clinched without some hard work in the regular season’s final game.
And the Shockers wouldn’t have it any other way.
Wichita State roared out to a 38-16 lead in the first half, then held off a frantic Missouri State rally in the second half to beat the Lady Bears 74-69 and clinch the MVC regular season title.
“I don’t know if I can put it all into words,” WSU coach Jodie Adams said. “It’s been a five-year journey. Along the way, it hasn’t been one thing that’s changed this program. It’s been commitments by everyone. Players, staff, administration, Wichitans, fans.
“They’ve embraced our environment. We sold them a long time ago on a dream when they were 10th in the conference. Now that dream has become a reality.”
Senior center Jazimen Gordon, one of Adams’ first recruits, powered the Shockers with 20 points and 13 rebounds off the bench. She scored on three straight possessions for WSU late in the game after Missouri State had closed within 63-62.
“I want more. We have two more challenges to get through. We want to win the tournament and get to the dance,” Gordon said. “It’s been a long journey the last few years, and it’s just about time. We’ve worked hard, and we’ve been through so much. This is a great reward.”
Wichita State’s work was nearly undone by a furious Missouri State comeback.
Trailing 54-33 with 13:44 left, the Lady Bears (14-16, 6-12 MVC) outscored Wichita State 27-7 over the next nine minutes to close within 61-60 with a little less than five minutes to go.
The Shockers led 63-62 when Gordon went to work in the paint. Her last basket gave the Shockers a 69-64 lead with 2:11 left, and Missouri State got no closer than four the rest of the way.
“We had to have an attack mentality. Basketball is a game of momentum, and you have to give credit to Missouri State for their fight. They had the momentum,” Adams said. “But the bottom line is, you play to win the game. You don’t play to protect the lead.”
Michaela Dapprich, who grew up about 45 minutes down the road from the Missouri State campus in Branson, Mo., had 17 points on 6 of 9 shooting before fouling out with eight minutes to play.
Alex Harden added 16 points and Darice Fountaine finished with 10. The Shockers out-rebounded one of the nation’s best rebounding teams 42-38, blocked 13 Lady Bears shots and had 18 second-chance points.
Whitney Edie led Missouri State with 21 points and seven rebounds. Karly Buer finished with 13 while Kenzie Williams had 10.
The Shockers could face a rematch with Missouri State in the MVC quarterfinals. The Lady Bears are the No. 8 seed and will play No. 9-seeded Drake in Thursday’s opening round with the winner advancing to take on Wichita State Friday afternoon.