KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Sophomore G Jessica Mainz's free throw with 4.0 seconds left lifted the second-seeded Washburn Lady Blues to a 71-70 win over the top-seeded Missouri Western Griffons in the title game of the MIAA Women's Basketball Championships Sunday afternoon (March 4) at Municipal Auditorium.
The Lady Blues (27-3) won the tournament for the fourth time in the five years it has been played in Kansas City, and third year in a row. They earned the MIAA's automatic bid to the NCAA Division II South Central Regional, the dates and site to be announced later Sunday.
Washburn had a 21-point advantage at one point in the first half's procedings, but settled on an 18-point, 42-24 lead at the break.
The Lady Blues shot 18-of-32 (56.3 percent) from the floor in the first half, with junior F Amanda Holmes (11) and junior G Corkey Stiger (10) accounting for half of the team's offensive output.
The Griffons went nearly nine minutes without a field goal in the opening stanza -- junior G Ashleigh Curry's three-pointer with 51 seconds left was Western's first field goal since a bucket by senior C Inga Buzoka with 9:37 on the clock. MWSU was out-scored, 16-3, during the drought.
The second half brought a 180-degree turn to the game -- the Griffons warmed up and things went south for the Lady Blues. Washburn went without a made field goal for more than six minutes -- and saw a 15-point lead evaporate in that cold spell.
Western embarked on a 21-5 outburst, fueled by eight points from junior G/F Yanique Javois and six from Buzoka, and grabbed its first lead since the 16:54 mark of the first half -- 53-52 with 8:57 remaining.
There were seven lead changes and six ties in the last 8:39 of the game, as neither team could get more than one possession's difference. The Griffons last lead came after a pair of free throws by junior G Chemia Woods at the 4:16 mark, making it 63-62.
Holmes answered with a jumper one minute later to give the Lady Blues the lead. The break for Washburn came on the next possession, as Curry went 1-of-2 at the charity stripe following a foul on the baseline charged to WU senior G Cindy Keeley to leave the score at 64-64 with 2:46 left.
Western would knot the score three more times in the final 2:16, the last on a Curry jumper with 20 seconds left. After WU planned their strategy in a timeout with 13.2 seconds left, Mainz was fouled by Javois on a drive to the bucket 9.2 seconds later.
Mainz, who led the Lady Blues soccer team to the MIAA title last fall, stepped up to the foul line having made just two charities in her previous five tries -- and missed her first try. She regrouped and calmly sank the second attempt.
Western moved quickly to get a game-winning shot off, but Davis' trey was wide of the mark, handing the Griffons their second loss in the last four games.
Holmes led Washburn with 19 points (on 8-of-24 shooting from the field) and nine rebounds, and earned All-Tournament honors. Stiger ended up with 15 points off the bench and picked up the tournament's Most Valuable Player award. Senior F Brooke Ubelaker chipped in 10 points.
Javois was 5-of-9 from three-point range and led all scorers in the final with 21 points. Curry and Buzoka each registered 14 points -- Buzoka added seven rebounds and five blocked shots. Davis had 12 rebounds and six assists to go with six points.
Javois, Curry and Davis rounded out the All-Tournament Team.
-- MIAA --