SPRINGFIELD– It wasn’t labeled “Battle of the Century,” but between Belmont and Missouri State, neither team had suffered a loss in 17 games. Besides, it wasn’t like the winner would share the best record in the Valley with the conference tournament looming in less than 3 weeks. What’s that? Oh they would? Then i guess it should’ve been…
Beth Cunningham’s crew lost to the Bruins in their first meeting, then ripped off eight straight victories before Sunday’s rematch. Coincidentally, Belmont’s 9-game winning streak started with their triumph over Mo-State.
And the Bruins were hungry to sweep the Lady Bears. Kendall Cheesman knocks down one of her 3 triples in the first quarter. Nashville squad up 14-7 in the first.
90 seconds left in the period, Aniya Thomas ain’t afraid to drive in rush hour traffic. MSU trailed 20-15 after one.
Under 4 minutes til the half, Kilyn McGruff teammates call her “the eliminator” gives the Bruins a 13-point advantage, largest of the game.
Jade Masagayo hasn’t scored less than 10 points in 9 straight games, held to just 6 on 2 of 10 shooting this afternoon.
Then right before intermission, McGruff step back 3 “the eliminator” hits Belmont’s 4th trey of the half, Bruins up 40-28.
Third quarter, MSU trying to cut the deficit, that’ll do the trick. Thomas finished with a game-high 19. Maroon and white only down 8.
Later in the period, Thomas and Paige Rocca with the give and go. Just like you draw it up. Lady Bears trail 54-48 entering the 4th.
So with 3:30 to go in regulation, down 5, ole number 5 hits back-to-back jumpers. Lady Bears within 3!
But everytime momentum wore maroon and white, Belmont would steal it right back. Bruins were just 5-17 from the outside, but Destinee Wells hits their last one to beat the shot clock and restore their edge to 6.
Missouri State had their chances at the foul line to win this game, but only made 19 of 32 attempts as the Bruins sweep the Bears to claim supremacy over the forest and Valley conference standings.
“We still had an opportunity,” said Lady Bears Head Coach Beth Cunningham. “The game was there for the taking and you have to give them credit we’re down three and Wells hits a three with late in the shot clock and it’s a back breaker. But that’s not the difference in the ball game. To me, it was the first half. It was how we started defensively and the lapses we had. Which then puts more pressure on your offense. I guess in short the positive thing is the game was still right there despite all the struggles that we had.”