By defeating top-seeded Pittsburg State in the quarterfinals of the MIAA women’s basketball tournament, the Lindenwood Lions once again proved that in March, anything is possible.
The Gorillas entered the matchup with a 24-4 record. They were the No. 1 seed in the MIAA tournament and had consistently been ranked in the top 10 nationally all season long.
Lindenwood entered the contest with a 13-15 record. They were the tournament’s No. 9 seed and had never before even advanced to the quarterfinal stage of the conference tournament.
By the end of the evening, however, there were only two numbers that mattered. The scoreboard read Lindenwood 64, Pittsburg State 63.
“As we are building our program, it is programs like Pitt State that we are aspiring to be like,” head coach Tony Francis said following the game. “We still have some bumps along the way, but these kids sure fought hard today.”
He said that he can’t help but feel happy after defeating a team the caliber of the Gorillas, but gave all the credit to his team.
All throughout the game, the teams battled back-and-forth. The lead changed eight times, and there were six ties. The socre was tied at 18 after the first quarter, and Pitt State led by just one point at halftime. At no point did either team hold a lead larger than six points.
With just four seconds to play, the score was tied at 63 apiece. Lindenwood junior Jerricah Butler found herself at the free throw line with a chance to give her team the lead. It was a fitting way for this game to be decided.
Throughout the regular season, Lindenwood was the worst free throw shooting team in the entire conference, connecting on just 67 percent of its attempts. To get past the top-seeded Gorillas, Butler would have to knock one down in the most pressure-filled situation of her collegiate career.
After missing the first attempt, she connected on the second, giving Lindenwood the lead, and four seconds later, the win.
“We aren’t very polished right now, but our kids work hard and I couldn’t be more proud of them,” Francis said.
Senior Alex Haley and freshman Lindsay Medlen led the Lions with 15 points apiece. MIAA freshman of the year Kallie Bildner added 10 points of her own, despite facing double-teams from Pitt State defenders virtually all evening. Sophomore Sara Ross collected a team-high eight rebounds.
The team now advances to the MIAA semifinals, where they will face off against fifth-seeded Central Oklahoma. The game is set to tip off shortly after 8:30 p.m.
“I’m already focused on tomorrow,” Francis said. “I have to let them enjoy this win, but I’m already thinking about tomorrow.”