WARRENSBURG, Mo. — Several minutes after Central Missouri erased a 10-point, fourth-quarter deficit and beat Emporia State 61-56 in overtime Wednesday evening, freshman Megan Skaggs admitted the Jennies didn’t play particularly well.
Her sister, sophomore Sydney Skaggs, agreed. But the wide smiles on their faces and on their teammates’ faces showed the Jennies were experiencing a special moment.
Central Missouri, ranked 19th in the WBCA top 25, just played its first ranked opponent of the season and beat the seventh-ranked Emporia State Hornets. By winning, the Jennies, 16-2 overall, forged a first-place tie in the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Conference with Pittsburg State at 9-1.The challenge for the Jennies is to put its biggest win of the season behind them and focus on Saturday’s opponent. At 1:30 p.m. CT, Central Missouri takes on Washburn, which is 12-6.
“All the hype and excitement after this game, we need to carry it over to the Washburn game,” Megan said. “Saturday is nice because our family also makes the trip. They get to watch both of us on the same team. When we played at Lindenwood University last week, we had over 50 people watch us. We are from a small town. We have a lot of supporters who love to see us play together again.
Sydney and Megan Skaggs grew up in Park Hills, Missouri, a town of about 8,000 people, located 70 miles south of St. Louis and 273 miles from Warrensburg, Missouri.
The sisters always wanted to play college basketball together. It appeared that was going to happen at the University of Missouri-St. Louis where Sydney spent her freshman year last season.
Megan was planning to go to UMSL. Even Central Missouri coach Dave Sliver thought that was the likely destination.
“We didn’t think there was any way she would come here because her brother was at UMSL and so was her sister,” Slifer said.
But Megan took a recruiting trip to Central Missouri. She loved the campus and school so much that on the drive home she called the coaches and let them know she was committing to Central Missouri.
And then Megan made the difficult call to her older sister.
“Big sis was pretty upset,” Megan said.
Sydney, though, wasn’t particularly happy at UMSL.
“I decided I might as well make the switch and play together again,” Sydney said. “I guess you can say I followed her here.”
It is a decision neither regrets. Megan, a 6-foot guard, starts and is averaging 8.5 points per game. Sydney, a 6-2 forward, comes off the bench and is averaging 3.6 points.
Sydney showed her importance in the Emporia State game. She had a put-back basket just before halftime that helped the Jennies close the gap to 24-20.
“Sydney is eventually going to be able to guard everybody on the floor,” Slifer said. “Eventually she will be the best defender in the conference because she will be able to guard one through five. That is the biggest thing.
“Megan is just stable. Her stats don’t look that great. But the biggest stat is what the team does when she is in. She leads us in the plus/minus category. She just doesn’t make mistakes.”
The quality that Slifer also enjoys from the sisters and freshman Morgan Fleming is the exuberance they have brought to the team. A year ago, Central Missouri finished 11-18 overall and 9-13 in conference.
The team chemistry is so strong that Central Missouri has won five straight since losing Fleming to a season-ending injury. Fleming was second on the team in scoring, averaging 11.9 points.
“Our program has a different aura with those two around and Morgan Fleming,” Slifer said. “Unfortunately, Mo is hurt, but still her presence is known. It is a great team environment.”
It was easy to see the enthusiasm Wednesday evening after the win over Emporia State. The Skaggs sisters couldn’t have written a better script for their first year at Central Missouri.
“It is awesome,” Sydney said. “Not many people get to experience it. There is a comfort zone with me all the time. We have been playing together since we were 4 and 5.
“We are sharing a dorm together, and we thought it was going to be an awesome idea. We don’t get a break from each other and even when we go home we are together.”
Slifer has been a head coach since the 1989-90 season. This is the first time he has coached sisters on the same team.
“I played with brothers when I was in high school,” Slifer said. “They were a blast because they could get on each other and that is exactly what Sydney and Megan will do. They are brutal to each other.”
But obviously, their bond is strong.
“I wouldn’t trade it for the world,” Megan said. “You can say stuff to each other that we can’t say to other teammates and them not taking it personally. It is an experience you can’t trade.”
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At 6 p.m. ET Thursday, Union women’s basketball team plays at Lee. The men’s telecast follows at 8 p.m.
The Lee women are 12-5 and are looking to win their second game in a row against Union, which is 9-9. The player to watch for Lee is Erin Walsh, who is tied for 15th on school’s all-time scoring list with 1,232 points. She is averaging 15.1 points this season.
In the men’s game, Union also brings a 9-9 record. Lee is 9-8. Lee head coach Bubba Smith picked up his 200th coaching victory on Jan. 9.
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Arkansas Tech women’s basketball team figures to face a spirited challenge Saturday when it brings its 13-2 record and No. 17 ranking in the WBCA top 25 to Southwestern Oklahoma State, which is 10-6. The game will be televised on American Sports Network at noon ET Saturday and the men’s game follows at 2 p.m.
One player Arkansas Tech must control is Hailey Tucker who leads Southwestern Oklahoma State and the Great American Conference in scoring 18.8 points while also averaging 9.8 rebounds.
In the men’s game, Arkansas Tech is 11-4 overall and 7-4 and in third place in the GAC. Southwestern Oklahoma State is 5-11 and 2-8.
In recent games, Arkansas Tech sophomore guard Freddy Lee has been doing a good job scoring and getting teammates involved in scoring. Lee is averaging 12 points and 6.8 assists in the last four games.