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MSSU women aim for first MIAA regular season championship

JOPLIN, Mo. – The Missouri Southern women’s basketball team doesn’t need to be told what’s on the line on Saturday in Edmond, Oklahoma.

“They understand. They’re seeing the tweets and everything else. I don’t have to talk about it much at all,” says head coach Ronnie Ressel, “They know what’s at stake and what the potential could be. They’re excited about it, but they still understand that we have to come ready to play.”

Missouri Southern wraps up the regular season on Saturday on the road against Central Oklahoma.

With a win, the Lions would claim their first MIAA regular season title in program history.

“The kids are extremely excited about this opportunity to potentially win a conference title,” Ressel adds, “We talked earlier in the year about our expectations. We wanted to finish in the top four. As the year went on, we kind of adjusted that a little bit and thought to ourselves hey, we can win a conference title if we keep playing well. We’re one game away from accomplishing that goal. We’re excited about that.”

The change in expectations in the middle of the season is due to what the team has done the last 7 weeks.

Missouri Southern has won 14 straight games, including wins over #2 Fort Hays State, #14 Nebraska-Kearney and #21 Missouri Western. They also swept rival Pittsburg State in back-to-back games last week.

The Lions are currently 21-5 overall, including 18-3 in the MIAA. Their 18-3 conference record has them tied with Fort Hays State for 1st place in the conference.

“The last five years, we’ve been the team that’s trying to knock off the top teams in this league,” Ressel says, “This year, we’ve completely turned that around. We took care of our home games and we won some tough games on the road. That’s really given us a lot of confidence.”

Saturday’s meeting with Central Oklahoma will be the second meeting of the season between the two teams.

The Lions beat the Bronchos 81-74 back in December in their MIAA conference opener.

“They’ve gotten better and we’ve gotten better,” Ressel says, “Kelsey Johnson has been huge in the paint for them. She’s averaging about 25 points and 10 boards per game the last five games. I think she’s shooting about 80% in those games. Their guards are playing better, too. Back in December their guards hadn’t been shooting it very well, but they’ve really started to shoot it well now. They’ve got kids who can shoot it, and they’re going to be a big challenge for us.”

Saturday’s game will begin at 1:30 PM in Edmond, Oklahoma.

Fort Hays State will be on the road against Northwest Missouri State in their regular season finale.

If both MSSU and Fort Hays State win, they will share the MIAA regular season title. The Lions can win the outright MIAA championship with a win and a loss from the Tigers.

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