MIAA Men's Basketball Championship round-up for March 3

Pittsburg State 76, Northwest Missouri State 70

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The tandem of senior F Ed Morris and junior F Cory Abercrombie combined to send fifth-seeded Pittsburg State to their first MIAA Championship Tournament title game in 10 years with a 76-70 semifinal upset of top-seeded Northwest Missouri State Saturday afternoon (March 3) at Municipal Auditorium.
Pittsburg State's Ed Morris and Northwest Missouri State's Hunter Henry battle for the opening tap in their MIAA Championship Tournament semifinal matchup. Photo by Carla Wehmeyer

The Gorillas (18-11) will face second seed and regular season co-champion Central Missouri in the finals Sunday (March 4). It will be the first time the tourney's top seed is not in the championship game since 1999, when Northwest eliminated Missouri Western.

Morris scored 11 of his 15 points in the first 20 minutes of the game, helping Pitt State claim a 37-34 halftime lead by making 4-of-5 from the floor and 3-of-4 at the charity stripe.

The Gorillas and Bearcats (23-6) swapped the lead eight times and were tied on six occasions in the first half before Pittsburg State grabbed control with a pair of free throws by junior G Keith Windom at the 3:48 mark to make it 30-28.

The Gorillas led by five with 2:03 left before Northwest came back to cut the gap to one, 35-34, with 1:03 left on a jumper from conference Freshman of the Year, G Lance Sullivan. PSU freshman G/F Spencer Magana, who replaced an injured Windom after a foul, sank his two free throws with 46 seconds for the halftime margin.

Northwest missed a pair of three-point tries in the final 15 seconds in an attempt to even the score before the break.

Abercrombie, who scored 36 in PSU's tournament-opening win over Southwest Baptist Thursday (March 1), had been held to just six points in the first half against Northwest. He came back after the break and scored six points in the first seven minutes as PSU built a 12-point lead with a 13-4 run to open the second half.

The Gorillas built the lead to 13, 61-48, with 8:29 left before the Bearcats sliced the deficit with a 7-0 spurt fueled by Sullivan's five points. But PSU was able to stave off Northwest, as the margin was never smaller than five the rest of the way.

Abercrombie scored 12 of his team-high 18 points in the second half, going 4-of-4 from the field and 4-of-6 on foul shots. He also grabbed 10 rebounds for a double-double. Morris finished with five boards, two blocks and two steals to go with his 15 points. Windom and sophomore G Carlos Taylor each scored 10 points, while senior G Joe Bridges dished six assists.

PSU made 20-of-41 (48.8 percent) from the field for the game, and went 29-of-38 (76.3 percent) at the free-throw line. The Gorillas had the rebounding edge, 36-20, but committed 17 turnovers to Northwest's nine.

The MIAA Most Valuable Player award winner, sophomore G Hunter Henry, finished with 21 points and eight rebounds for the Bearcats. Sullivan scored 16 points with four assists while junior G Andy Peterson added 10 points.

The teams combined for 47 fouls -- 23 by PSU, 24 by Northwest.

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Central Missouri 72, Truman 68

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Senior G Zack Wright scored 18 of his 24 points in the first half to help No. 2 seeded Central Missouri advance to the MIAA Championship Tournament final for the third consecutive year as the Mules held off a pesky sixth-seeded Truman squad, 72-68, in the semifinal played Saturday afternoon (March 3) at Muncipal Auditorium.

The Mules (26-3) are seeking their second MIAA Tournament championship in three seasons -- they won in 2005 over Missouri Southern but lost in last season's title game to Southwest Baptist.

UCM jumped out to a quick 9-2 lead in the first two minutes -- with Wright, a unanimous first-team All-MIAA selection, accounting seven of the Mules' points by making his first three shots of the game -- a trey included.

With the Mules ahead, 16-9, Truman (16-13) started on a 12-3 run to get its first lead of the game with 10:49 remaining. Sophomore G Banks Estridge broke a 19-19 tie with a layup off a feed from senior F Andy Calmes. Junior F Nick Certa knotted the game the game at 19 with a trey.

Down, 25-23, the Mules would regain control with a 15-3 run as Wright (6) and senior G Wadale Williams (5) combined for 11 points and helped UCM to a 38-28 lead with 3:01 left in the first half.

The Mules ended up with an eight-point halftime lead by scoring the period's final three points after the Bulldogs halved the 10-point cushion with 1:26 left on a layup by senior G Austin Kirby and a trey from senior F Grant Agbo.

Central Missouri's advantage grew to its largest at 14 points, 53-39, with 17:12 left in the game before Truman threw another flurry at the Mules. The Bulldogs went on a 12-0 run thanks to single treys by Kirby and senior C Garret Grimm followed by a pair of three-pointers by Certa.

While the Bulldogs would never catch the Mules, they kept the pressure on by never being more than two possessions (six points or less) from the lead over the final 8:33. UCM couldn't relax until senior G Theo Jones gave the Mules their final margin by making a foul shot with five seconds left. He missed the second, UCM's first of the second half at the charity stripe (11-of-12).

Wright had eight rebuonds to go with his 24 points to lead Central Missouri. Williams had 16 points and eight boards, while senior F Darryl Sommerset had 13 points and 13 rebounds. Jones chipped in 11 and senior F Charles Stoker had eight, as the five Mule starters accounted for all scoring.

Kirby had 20 points for Truman to go with five assists, while Certa scored 14. Calmes had 10 points, 11 rebounds and five assists, and Agbo had 10 points and nine boards. Estridge had a team-high six assists to go with eight points.

-- MIAA --


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