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Kearney, Neb. — The Emporia State Lady Hornets fell 59-54 at Neb.-Kearney on Thursday night in a battle of the top two teams in the MIAA Preseason Coaches Poll.

“There’s no non-conference games, no exhibition games, these games matter. They matter right away from the start,” said Emporia State head coach Toby Wynn. “We had a chance to kinda steal one on their home court tonight and we let it slip away.”

The Lady Hornets fell behind early as the Lopers jumped out to an 11-3 lead four minutes into the contest. Tre’Zure Jobe would score six straight points to cut the deficit to 15-13 with 1:21 left in the opening quarter before Neb.-Kearney scored the final five points of the frame.

Haley Simenthal hit a three with 8:50 left in the second quarter to push the Loper lead to ten points. The Lady Hornets worked the lead back down to three when Kali Martin hit a jumper in the paint with 3:41 left to make it 29-26. Kelsey Sanger scored on an old fashioned three-point play with 1:23 left for the only scoring the rest of the half as Neb.-Kearney took a 32-26 lead into the locker room.

Emporia State trailed 36-28 with 7:57 left when they went on a 14-0 run to take their first lead of the night. Daley Handy started the scoring as she beat the shot clock with 7:28 left. A steal and layup by Jobe cut the deficit to four and Ehlaina Hartman drilled a three-pointer with 5:44 left in the quarter to pull the Lady Hornets within one a 36-35. Martin hit two free throws out of the media timeout in the third give Emporia State a 37-36 lead. Jobe nailed a three-pointer with 4:19 left and then hit a jumper 39 seconds later to give the Lady Hornets their largest lead of the night at 42-36. Neb.-Kearney ended the quarter on an 8-2 run as the teams went to the fourth quarter tied at 44.

Trinity Law scored the first points of the fourth quarter for UNK before Fredricka Sheats went on a 4-0 run to put Emporia State up 48-46 with 8:34 left. Madison Dreckman then tied it inside for the Lopers with 8:21 remaining. Martin nailed a three-pointer with 7:12 left to give the Lady Hornets a 51-48 lead. Emporia State then went scoreless over the next 4:46 of action, but were able to stay in the game by only allowing UNK to score seven points during that time.

“I thought defensively our players did a nice job and competed the way we wanted them to on the defensive end,” said Wynn. “Holding those guys to just 59 points in their own gym I thought was good.”

Jobe hit two free throws with 2:26 left to bring the Lady Hornets within two at 55-53. Elisa Backes scored inside with 1:47 left to give the Lopers a two possession lead. Martin connected on one of two free throws with 1:25 left to make it 57-54.

After a missed layup by Backes the Lady Hornets had the ball back with under a minute left, but Jobe missed a jumper with 56 seconds left. After another missed jumper by Backes, Emporia State had another chance but Hartman’s layup missed with 17 seconds left and Haley Simental hit a pair of free throws with 12.5 seconds remaining for the final score.

“I was disappointed in our team offensively. We weren’t as sharp and as crisp as we needed to be,” said Wynn. “We had some players that just did not shoot the basketball well from the perimeter that we needed to.”

Tre’Zure Jobe led all scorers with 22 points and grabbed six rebounds with three steals. She was joined in double figures by Kali Martin with 11 points while Daley Handy added ten points and a team high eight rebounds. Haley Simental led the Lopers with 15points.

“I told my team we have to learn from this game and we have to learn quickly,” said Wynn. “The learning curve is really small this season.”

The next action for the Lady Hornets is now scheduled to be on November 28 at Northeastern State. Emporia State was supposed to play at Fort Hays State on November 21 but that game has been postponed due to COVID protocols at Fort Hays State.

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