Mike Davis, the Columbia College women’s basketball coach, said his team usually builds momentum slowly and eventually wears down its opponent. His theory also applies to the Cougars’ season.
The Cougars beat Hannibal-LaGrange 84-61 in the second round of the American Midwest Conference Tournament on Friday at The Arena of Southwell Complex.
After starting 8-7, the Cougars (26-8) have won a school-record 18 straight. The No. 17 Cougars face No. 22 McKendree (Ill.) at 7 p.m. Monday in Columbia for the AMC Tournament title.
Although the Cougars are a virtual lock for the NAIA Championship Tournament, Davis said the AMC Tournament is a chance for his team to continue its momentum.
“Here’s how we look at it; we can go to the national tournament on a 19-game winning streak or a one-game losing streak,” he said. “So, this next ball game is pretty important to us.”
LeAnn Fossum, a freshman forward, gave the Cougars instant energy and production. She scored six of the Cougars’ first eight points and finished with 16 on 8-of-11 shooting. She scored in a variety of ways, including putbacks, fast-breaks, baseline shots and inside pivot moves.
“I just came in ready to play,” she said. “We needed to get a good start to the game and take care of business.”
Although the Cougars led by double digits for most of the second half, Fossum dived for balls with the same reckless abandon she normally does.
“That may be a surprise to you, but in reality, that is kind of what we expect,” Davis said. “It’s what she does every day and it’s what she has done from the first day she was here this fall. That’s LeAnn, that’s who she is and I think that’s why she is having the success.”
Charliss Ridley, a junior forward, led the Cougars with 22 points and grabbed a game-high 14 rebounds. Ridley said energy was the key to the Cougars outrebounding the Trojans 39-21.
“Tuesday (against Harris-Stowe State), we didn’t come out with the energy we needed to,” she said. “I think this game we determined to crash the boards, move the ball and do everything we could. I think the main thing for us was just being focused.”
The Trojans (18-14) shot 37.3 percent to the Cougars’ 53.8 percent. The Trojans’ Megan Martin scored a game-high 23. She used shot fakes to get the Cougars off their feet, drew contact and finished several shots she was fouled on.
“They were isolating her,” Ridley said. “She does a great job getting position and then doing her up and under move. We just have to play smarter on our down low.”
Tiffany Foote, the Cougars’ starting point guard, scored 16 on 4-of-4 shooting and had a game-high seven assists. She also banked in a shot from half court with one second before halftime, but the officials nullified the shot by calling her for traveling. The shot didn’t count, but it sent the Cougars to the locker room wearing smiles.
Lisa Kowalewski, the Cougars’ all-time leading scorer, was her team’s fourth-highest scorer with 15. Davis said his guards have sacrificed shots for the good of the team.
“I think that comes from a great trust in each other,” he said. “I think they understand, ‘Well I don’t have to get 30 (points).’ They believe in each other. Makes it nice for me.”