The Lions finished the regular season on an eight-game win streak, the longest streak in the MIAA conference. The Lions finished the season at 20-8 (15-4 MIAA), and in the second spot in the MIAA standings behind Northwest Missouri (16-3). Southern will be playing against Fort Hays State today in Kansas City, Mo. The tip-off is set for approximately 2:15 p.m. The entire tournament will be held at the Municipal Auditorium. By earning the two seed for the conference tournament, the Lions were set to play the winner of the seven versus 10 seed game. Fort Hays State was the seventh seeded team, and they defeated Lindenwood (10th seed) on Tuesday night to advance to Kansas City to play the Lions in the quarterfinals. The only time the Tigers and Lions faced off this season the Tigers won 76-69. The game was in Hays, Kan., where the Tigers mounted a comeback behind a huge second half. The Lions led 37-31 at the break, and the Tigers outscored them 45- 32. If the Lions are victorious today they will be playing at 6 p.m. tomorrow. If they were to win that semifinals matchup they would be playing in the championship at 3:15 on Sunday.
“If we want to make a long run in the tournament we are going to need guys like Kinzer and Enis to continue to play like they have,” said Boschee.
Boschee also stated that they expect to start Memic in today’s game, and would monitor Ross’s MCL injury throughout the weekend.
On Tuesday this week, head coach Jeff Boschee was named the MIAA Coach of the Year for the first time in his career. This is Boschee’s second 20 win season out of four years of coaching at Southern.
“It’s a great honor, it’s great to be recognized by your fellow coaches,” said Boschee. “But I’ve learned that when your successful your dependent upon other people, I have a great coaching staff, and obviously great players.”
He coached the Lions to two victories over the top team in the conference, in Northwest, this year. CJ Carr earned All-MIAA first-team, Clark made the All-MIAA second-team, and Lambert was an honorable mention in the MIAA. Carr was also named to the All-defensive team.
“Obviously I have a biased opinion, but if you look at the stats, I think CJ was deserving of Player of the Year, and I think Elyjah could have been first team, rather than second, but sometimes you get overlooked as a sophomore,” said Boschee.
Southern has also moved up to fourth in the NCAA Div. II rankings for the central region. They are behind Southern Nazarene (3rd), Northern State (2nd), and Northwest (1st). Southwest Minnesota State, St. Cloud State, Minnesota State-Mankato, and Northwestern Oklahoma round out the top eight in that order. Two MIAA teams fell out of the top eight in this weeks rankings, Central Oklahoma is in ninth, and Washburn 10th.
The last time out the Lions shot the ball poorly at about 40 percent. They made 27 out of 68 shots last Saturday in Warrensburg, Mo. Elyjah Clark was just 4-17, and all four made shots were three pointers. Clark led the team with 18 points, and 12 rebounds. Clark was 6-8 from the charity stripe. Kinzer Lambert collected his third straight double-double with 14 points and 13 rebounds. Lambert shot almost 50 percent from the field at 6-13. Enis Memic added 13 points and seven rebounds, and CJ Carr added 11 points, nine assists, and five rebounds. Despite poor shooting, a late surge would allow the Lions to take a lead late, and wind up in overtime. The Lions led the overtime period 77-70 at one point and went on to win the game 82-80.