It was an emotional game for the Missouri State women’s basketball squad, but the No. 21 nationally-ranked team pulled out a 72-61 win against Loyola on Saturday afternoon.
It was the 15th win for the Lady Bears in Springfield this season, capping off an undefeated season at home — the first time the Lady Bears have done so since moving to JQH in 2008.
Missouri State jumped out to a 14-4 lead by the 3:50 mark of the first, but the Ramblers took advantage of a sloppy few minutes from the Lady Bears to make it 14-10 at the end of the first.
Quarter two was a similar story.
The Lady Bears came out fast and led by as much as eight in the early stages. Loyola drew within two by the five-minute mark.
Neither squad went cold in the final five minutes and the first half ended with Missouri State up 33-26.
Loyola managed to take a two-point lead in the third quarter, but two consecutive threes from junior Elle Ruffridge helped the Lady Bears retake their lead.
The Lady Bears outscored the Ramblers 23-17 in the fourth quarter to help them hold on for the win.
As it was the final home game of the season, the Lady Bears honored seniors Shameka Ealy and Alexa Willard.
“(This game) meant a lot,” head coach Amaka “Mox” Agugua-Hamilton said. “Shameka is coming back from (an ACL) injury, and she’s had some adversity on-and-off the court. Alexa is such a hard worker. Her will to win and her competitive edge has really helped us.”
Mox said she was glad the team was able to win while still coming off of the emotions of both Senior Day and winning the Missouri Valley Conference regular season championship on Thursday.
“I didn’t think we played great — we played good — good enough to win,” Mox said.
The Lady Bears are the No. 1 seed in the MVC tournament next week while Loyola is the eighth seed. If the Ramblers manage to beat ninth seed Indiana State, the two teams will play again in the semifinals.
“It’s crazy that we might play them again in a few days,” Mox said. “We should know the game plan and the (scouting report). I expect us to have a different energy than we did tonight.”
While the Lady Bears want to win the MVC tournament, losing it will likely not mean the end of their season.
Based on their performance during the regular season, Missouri State will be in the NCAA Tournament, but they will likely need to win out to have a chance of hosting NCAA Tournament games.
Their semifinal game is set for noon on Friday, March 13, in Moline, Ill.