Stokes leads Missouri State to MVC title game

Mar. 16—It was another dogfight.

That's what Lacy Stokes said Missouri State was prepared for this weekend. On Saturday, Stokes and the Bears got that from Belmont.

"Like I said, we knew going in that these games were going to be dogfights because this conference is full of a lot of talented teams," Stokes said. "Everyone is going to give you their best every night.

"I think having close games during the season prepared us for situations (like the last two games)," she said.

Stokes tallied 21 points, made 8 of 10 free throws and led third-seeded MSU (23-8) to a 63-48 victory after outscoring the second-seeded Bruins (25-8) 34-21 in the second half.

"I think we just locked down defensively," Stokes said about pulling away in the second half. "Once we sit down and guard like we can, I don't think there's anything that can stop us."

This sets up a championship game against top-seeded Drake (28-5), which defeated Northern Iowa (16-15) 92-83 in overtime on Saturday afternoon.

"This is what we came for. This is what we wanted," Stokes said. "I'm happy we're going to see Drake again because we only got to see them once. They're a really talented team. I think it'll be a great game — another dogfight just like the other ones."

Drake topped Missouri State 76-65 on Feb. 22 in Des Moines, Iowa, at Drake University.

The largest margin of the first half was 6 points when Belmont's Kendal Cheesman hit a 3-pointer to make it 14-8 in favor of the Bruins.

"I think we really just needed some momentum. It started on the defensive end getting stops and then just converting that to the offense," Stokes said.

Missouri State battled back to tie the game at 14 by the end of the first quarter. Stokes scored the last 6 points of the period.

She had 6 points, three rebounds, two assists and a steal after the first quarter. She totaled 12 points, four rebounds, three assists and a steal at halftime and MSU led 29-27. She also tallied the team's last 4 points of the second quarter.

The Bears got out to a 41-32 advantage in the third stanza and never looked back. Belmont never got any closer than 7 points the remainder of the contest.

Stokes' 21 points led Missouri State. Her six rebounds were second on the team. She led the way with five assists and four steals.

Joining her in double figures was freshman Kyrah Daniels with 13 points.

Belmont was led by Tessa Miller with 17 points and Cheesman with 14.

Missouri State's depth and ability to get double-digit scoring from multiple players has shown this weekend with Stokes going north of 10 points in both games, Indya Green once and now Daniels once.

"I think that's one thing that makes us so dangerous on the offensive end. You never know who's going to have the hot hand that night," Stokes said. "I think we do a really good job of finding who that is and getting them the ball when we need to."

Stokes said that can be anyone from Daniels, Green or Paige Rocca and the team just trusts each and every player to knock down shots.