By TOMMY REZAC
St. Joseph Post
KANSAS CITY - The Missouri Western men's basketball team gave themselves a chance in the first half, only trailing Northwest Missouri State 35-27 at the break.
The No. 1 seed Bearcats (28-2, 21-2 MIAA), however, played fairly mistake free in the second half, and used a 12-2 run early in that second half to pull away and ultimately down the Griffons 65-52 in the MIAA tournament quarterfinals at Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City Thursday.
Northwest shot 50 percent on the day, and outscored Missouri Western 46-18 in the paint. The Bearcats only had nine turnovers on the day, including just three in the second half.
"They were able to hold us off," Missouri Western assistant head coach Jon Hood said. "(Northwest) is a very good, experienced team. They did what they were supposed to do to get the win. They hit timely shots and we probably could have rebounded a little bit better."
Missouri Western (14-16, 9-14 MIAA) got down 20-8 midway through the first half, but a barrage of consecutive threes from Reese Glover, Julius Dixon and JaRon Thames made it a 20-17 ballgame with 8:55 left in the first half.
The Bearcats answered the bell, going up 33-22 with 4:03 left before halftime. Still, the Griffons hung in and went into the locker room down 35-27.
Dixon scored the first points of the second half for Missouri Western, but Northwest went on an 8-0 run after that to go up 43-29 with 14:37 left in the game. The Bearcats led by double digits the rest of the way.
Wes Dreamer led Northwest with 27 points. He also had eight rebounds. MIAA Player of the Year and St. Joseph native Diego Bernard tallied 16 points, nine rebounds, five assists and three steals.
Byron Alexander came off the bench to score 12 for Northwest, who advance to MIAA tournament semifinals for an eighth straight season.
Dixon and Thames led Missouri Western with 11 points each. Taye Fields and Will Eames each had seven. Eames, a three-time all-MIAA honoree, ended his Griffon career with 104 games played and 1185 career points.
He, Alex John and John Anderson, Jr. all played their final game for Missouri Western Thursday.
"They have created the culture and have helped build it and build it," Hood said of the three seniors. "Keep stacking days. That's what (head coach Will Martin) said about Will Eames. Just a very consistent player."
The Griffons head into offseason mode, with seven of their top eight scorers and 12 total players set to come back in 2023-24.
"It's tough when you end on a loss," Hood reflected, "but we'll take the way we finished the season and our momentum into the offseason, build on it, come back and continue to get better."
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