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Lopers’ 15-game win streak snapped in MIAA semifinals

Sarah Schmitt had nine points, seven rebounds and four assists in UNK’s 65-43 win over Northwest Missouri State. Photo by Matthew Hicks / MSH Visual

The UNK women’s basketball team’s 15-game win streak and quest for an MIAA tournament championship came to an abrupt end Saturday, as the Lopers lost to Missouri Southern 63-51 in the MIAA semifinals. 

Reigning MIAA freshman and player of the year Lacy Stokes scored 14 points in the third quarter and finished with 28.

“She kind of got going early on in the game,” said fifth-year senior Klaire Kirsch in a press conference after the game. “I feel like in games past we did a better job of containing her early so she wasn’t as aggressive.”

UNK missed its first nine shots of the game which allowed Missouri Southern to get out to an early 8-0 lead. The cold start would not end until the 4:42 mark in the first quarter when Kirsch buried a 3-pointer to cut into the Lion lead.

UNK continued to cut into the Missouri Southern lead and eventually got a one-point lead off of a Brooke Carlson jumper with 1:18 to go in the first. However, Missouri Southern ended the first with a 12-11 advantage.

An Elisa Backes 3-pointer and a Sarah Schmitt layup gave the Lopers the advantage to start the second, their biggest and last lead of the night. Missouri Southern then strung together an 11-point run to go into the half with a 29-23 lead.

To this point, UNK’s leading scorer for the season, Shiloh McCool, had only made one basket, which came in the final 30 seconds of the half. She would end the night with half of her season average, finishing with six points.

The Lopers cut the lead to within one point at the 2:59 mark in the third quarter with two free throws by Kirsch, but never retook the lead. They would end the quarter the same way they started, down by six, 48-42.

A Schmitt 3-pointer would get the Lopers within three in the fourth, but Missouri Southern would outscore the Lopers 9-2 in the final four minutes to pull away with the 63-51 victory over the number one-seeded Lopers. 

UNK was led by Kirsch with 12 points, followed behind by Schmitt with 10 and Backes would finish with eight before fouling out with 3:56 left in the fourth.

While the hunt to improve upon their finish as MIAA season champions came to an end, the Lopers still have plenty to play for. 

“I mean it’s never good to lose, but in some ways you’d rather lose nowA than when it would permanently end your season,” said UNK coach Carrie Eighmey in the postgame press conference. “So we’re gonna keep chasing and see where it takes us.”

The Lopers qualified for the NCAA regional tournament and will play Pittsburg State in Duluth, Minnesota on March 10. UNK defeated the Gorillas in both matchups this season.

Fifth-year guard Klaire Kirsch battles for a loose ball against two Missouri Southern players in the Lopers’ 63-51 loss. Photo by Matthew Hicks / MSH Visual
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