SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — It’s a game Valley basketball fans have hyped all season long. Missouri State and Drake collide yesterday in Springfield with a conference championship potentially on the line.
An emotionally charged afternoon for all, but especially for senior point guard Danielle Gitzen.
It’s the final home game for No.1 in maroon & white. Gitzen’s the only senior on the team. An invaluable team captain all season.
Drake crashes the party early. The Valley’s leading scorer Becca Hitner with the put back two. Bulldogs up 6-2.
Gitzen gets the offense going with a 3. MSU’s only triple of the day. Lady Bears 1-for-17 downtown.
Drake will kill you from out there. Sara Rhine with 3 of her game-high 19 points. Bulldogs up by 11 after a quarter.
Watch this wily play from the senior Gitzen. Inbounds it off the defenders back and lays it up. Lady Bears down by 8.
The bulldogs pull away before half. Quick passing finds Rhine for 2. Bulldogs up 41-23 at halftime.
Lady Bears bring the fight after that. Jasmine Franklin the steal, Brice Calip fires to Gitzen for a bucket and-1. MSU climbs all the way back within four!
But Drake made a couple back-breaking threes. Maddie Monahan splashes one from the corner. The comeback comes up just short and Drake takes over first place with a 70-61 win.
“You know, at halftime I told the players you have two options: They could either fold or fight it. They made a statement there, I thought. They came back out and played hard,” said Head Coach Kellie Ford.
“I didn’t think I was going to tear up, but there were some teams. Yeah, it meant a lot to me. I don’t know, it’s just mixed emotions. It was nice being recognized after playing for years, but the season’s not over,” said Gitzen.
The Missouri State men missed out on a regular season championship, but that doesn’t mean much anyway, when it comes to the big dance. After Saturday’s loss to Drake, the Bears fell to the 4-seed for Arch Madness. They’ll take on Bradley in Friday’s quarterfinal.
“We’re still competing for a championship next week. After we win that, then we compete for another championship, so you’re always competing for the championship. We’ve just got to stay locked in, stay motivated and be hungry,” said Josh Webster.
The Bears and Braves will tip-off in St. Louis at 2:35 Friday afternoon.
And we have nine local high school’s competing in the state finals this week at JQH Arena. Can’t wait.
With your OzarksFirst sports report, I’m Dan Molloy.