For the third time this season the Turnpike Tussle got underway between Emporia State and Washburn. But this time the victory belonged to ESU to break a season series tie and place the Hornets in the MIAA Championship game on Sunday. The Hornets got off to a good start before giving up the lead and heading into halftime down six. ESU rallied, however, and won the game 61-52.
“It feels good,” Head Coach Jory Collins said about beating Washburn. “It feels real good. Obviously they’re your rival, and it feels good to beat those guys more than it does any other team. And our girls enjoy that.”
The contest began the way ESU would have hoped thanks to 12 first half points from freshman Kelsey Balcom who led the team in scoring in the first half. The Hornets opened the game with an eight-point lead with 9:20 remaining in the half.
“I think we’re just executing our offense well,” Balcom said in reference to her 12 first half points. “We were setting good screens. I just happened to be open.”
Laura McMullin and Washburn responded with a 21-7 run to end the half up 32-26. McMullin led all scorers in the half with 13 total points, seven of them coming in the late run.
Alli Volkens (18 points, 10 rebounds) struggled shooting in the half but still managed to get eight points as well as grab eight rebounds and block three shots.
“I told Alli V after the game that her first half was probably as bad as she’s been on the season,” Collins said. “(The second half) stretch was probably as good as she’s been. Nothing changed what we were doing. I just think she made a conscience effort to dig a little deeper to make an impact in the game.”
Volkens made her impact in the second half despite getting into foul trouble at the 16:05 mark. After picking up her third foul, Volkens would return with ESU down two and 12:28 remaining. She would score six straight points in 1:27 to give the Hornets a six point lead, one in which they never let go of.
“I think our team did a really good job while I was out of keeping it in reach,” Volkens said. “It’s tough sitting on the bench, yes, but coming back in I was rested I guess.”
Washburn wasn’t quite done yet. The Lady Blues pulled to within three points with 4:49 remaining after Volkens picked up her fourth foul. However, the Lady Blues would not score for the rest of the game.
“(We) played a great second half defensively,” Collins said. “Obviously to hold them to 20 points is something we’re really proud of and excited about.”
The Hornets now look onward to Sunday’s game about Northwest Missouri, a game in which they must win to keep their season alive.
“They have a lot of good players,” Volkens said. “They’re really deep, and that’s something we’re lacking a little bit in the size. But I think if we come out, we execute our game plan we’ll be all right.”