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The Antelope

Lopers claim top spot in MIAA after beating Jennies

Meg Burns broke her career high twice this weekend. Photo by Shelby Berglund / Antelope Staff

The top spot in the MIAA hung in the balance on Thursday. The UNK and Central Missouri women’s basketball teams came into the game trying to claim sole possession of first place.

UNK trailed by seven early in the fourth quarter but used an 8-0 run to come back and defeat the Jennies, 60-57. 

“I thought we executed some things really, really well down the stretch on both ends of the floor,” said UNK coach Carrie Eighmey. “We were able to get a couple of key stops the last few minutes and we were able to come away with the win.”

UNK had dropped five-straight games to Central Missouri before this victory. The Jennies beat the Lopers earlier in the season, 55-50. Each of the five-straight matchups has been decided by a margin of ten points or less. 

“They match us in a lot of ways from a physicality and size standpoint,” Eighmey said. “We have to find other ways to attack them. We’ve always felt our teams have been evenly matched and we come out on the losing end for one reason or another. It’s a good feeling to be able to finally get one of these close ones.”

Meg Burns led UNK with 16 points and played all 40 minutes while defending Central Missouri’s top guard, Olivia Nelson. Burns has been starting in the place of Trinity Law, who suffered a head injury against Missouri Western on Jan. 28.

“Meg’s kind of stepped in there and taken over that role of having to defend the best player on the floor,” Eighmey said. “Olivia Nelson is good and Meg did a phenomenal job on her today. Olivia scored, but they were all tough and she made some tough shots.”

With the score tied at 51, the Lopers drew up a set play after a timeout. Burns curl-cut off of a screen for the easy layup with 3:21 left. Elisa Backes would later add a 3-pointer to maintain the Loper lead. 

Sarah Schmitt added 14 points and led the team in assists with eight. Backes finished with 12 points and Kirsch had 10.

The Lopers turned around and played Lincoln on Saturday. UNK was able to pull away late, winning the game 76-66. 

UNK had a clear height advantage, but Lincoln did multiple things to take it away.

“They were doing some unique stuff,” Eighmey said. “They were kinda guarding us for half a possession in zone then they would switch to man. Obviously, we had an advantage in the paint and they were trying to minimize that advantage. But, we ended the game with 40 points in the paint so I thought we did a good job after that first quarter of adjusting.”

Shiloh McCool led the team with 19 points and eclipsed 1,000 for her career. She became the fourth current Loper to reach the mark along with Kirsch, Backes and Brooke Carlson. 

Burns set a new career high with 18 points. Kirsch finished the night with 12 points, nine rebounds and six assists. 

The first-place Lopers will take their 11-game win streak to Missouri Southern on Thursday and Pittsburg State on Saturday. 

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GRANT TIGHE, Sports Editor
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