Resilient Grinnell women's basketball team uses huge comeback to clinch Midwest Conference Tourney berth

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GALESBURG, Ill. – Anybody looking for an example of resilience, determination and a never-say-die attitude need look no further than the Grinnell College women's basketball squad.
The Pioneers used an amazing comeback Tuesday night, outscoring Knox College 24-7 in the final period to earn a 59-53 victory and clinch their second consecutive trip to the Midwest Conference Tournament.
The teams were tied in the conference standings entering the game, and Grinnell's win completed a season sweep of the Prairie Fire to grab the fourth spot in the four-team tourney.
Grinnell improved to 11-6 in the MWC and 13-9 overall, with the conference win total ranking second all-time at Grinnell.
The Pioneers held Knox, 10-7 in the MWC and 13-9 overall, to 53 points for the second time this season. Those figures are among the lowest scoring outputs for Knox in the 2016-17 campaign.
Kayla Morrissey '18, Sophia Gatton '17 and Alex Neckopulos '17 provided a solid 1-2-3 punch for the Pioneers. Morrissey posted her seventh double-double of the season with 24 points, which tied a season-high, and 11 rebounds. She also had three assists and two steals while making key free throws down the stretch.
Gatton had a season-high 15 points plus five assists, while Neckopulos earned her fifth double-double of the year with 14 points – tying a season-high - to go with 11 rebounds. Neckopulos, who drilled some critical baseline jumpers in the waning minutes, also had two steals.
The Pioneers got out to a fast start, scoring 15 of the game's first 20 points. Gatton had six of those points, including a 3-pointer, and Morrissey had four. Lydia Stariha '17 added a 3-pointer and Haley Lopez '17 a pair of free throws.
However, Knox chipped away and Grinnell's lead was just 17-15 after the first period.
The Prairie Fire took the lead and built on it, grabbing a 36-27 halftime edge and going ahead 46-35 heading into the final period.
It was a nine-point game early in the fourth quarter when Morrissey got hot, hitting two jumpers and two free throws to bring Grinnell within 48-45 with 4:51 remaining.
Knox continued to hang on though, but scored what proved to be its final points with 2:48 left for a 53-47 lead.
Morrissey was fouled and made both free throws to make it a four-point game. Knox then missed a shot and Neckopulos drilled a jumper to make it 53-51 with 2:07 left. Neckopulos followed with a steal and swished a jumper to tie the contest at the 1:33 mark.
After missing a jumper, Knox committed a technical foul and Morrissey made one of the free throws to put Grinnell ahead for good at the 1:07 mark.
Grinnell got the ball back and Neckopulos made a basket for a 56-53 lead. After a Knox miss, Morrissey was fouled and made a free throw for a four-point edge with 24 seconds remaining.
Another Knox miss was followed by two Neckopulos free throws to make it 59-53 with 11 seconds left to secure the win.
The Pioneers entertain Illinois College Saturday in a Senior Day contest. Action begins at 3 p.m. at Darby Gymnasium.