Coyotes rally, hold on to upset McPherson in KCAC Quarterfinals

McPHERSON – Kansas Wesleyan women’s coach Ryan Showman said he “saw postseason Kelcey Hinz (JR/Whitewater, Kan.)” during the Coyotes’ victory over Southwestern Tuesday in the first round of the KCAC Championship.

Hinz finished with 20 points and 18 rebounds in that game but she was just getting warmed up.

Playing a surging McPherson team on the road in the quarterfinals Hinz broke loose with 27 points, 12 rebounds, three blocks and two assists in the leading the fifth-seeded Coyotes to a 74-73 upset of the fourth-seeded Bulldogs Thursday night inside the Sports Center.

KWU (16-10) advances to the semifinals and game against top-seeded, unbeaten and No. 9-ranked Sterling at 7 p.m. Saturday inside the Gleason Center in Sterling.

Hinz was 8 of 17 from the field, 11 of 16 at the foul line and snagged seven offensive rebounds. Not bad for a nursing student who powered through a brutally long day along with teammate Amanda Hill (SR/Rossville, Kan.). Both were named All-KCAC Second Team earlier in the day.

“What a lot of people don’t realize is Amanda Hill and Kelcey Hinz‘s day started at 5:30 in the morning today at (Salina Regional Health Center),” Showman said on his postgame radio show. “They put in a 10-hour day, hopped on a bus and played a playoff basketball game.

“You want to talk about mental toughness, just toughness period, you’re not going to find two tougher individuals than Amanda Hill and Kelcey Hinz.”

Hill had an off night, finishing with seven points on 3 of 12 shooting, but five of her points came in the final six minutes of the game as KWU held on for the victory.

A 6-0 spurt to end the third quarter tied the game at 52 entering the final 10 minutes. The Coyotes took the lead for good with a 10-1 run to open the fourth quarter and led 62-53 with 5:58 left.

Hill’s basket with 1:23 left made it 70-63 but McPherson wasn’t going to go quietly. The Bulldogs responded with a 5-0 surge and trailed 70-68 with 30 seconds left.

Hinz made two free throws with 27 seconds left for a 72-68 lead but McPherson got within two again on a Brittney Roberts’ basket with 4.4 seconds left.

Gabby Mureeba (SO/Allen, Texas) doused the suspense, though, with two game-clinching free throws with 2.8 seconds left. McPherson’s Ericka Diaz made a cosmetic 3-pointer at the buzzer.

“It was a gutsy playoff game, playoff win,” Showman said. “I’m so proud of our resiliency, I’m so proud of the mental poise that we had. We’ve stuck with it and that’s what has carried us through this tough playoff stretch. I’m so happy and so proud of this team.”

A key factor in the victory was Wesleyan’s ability to slow Roberts, who earlier in the day was named the KCAC’s Player of the Year. She entered the game leading the conference in scoring (21.3) but finished with 14 points (10 in the fourth quarter) on 5 of 10 shooting. Roberts scored 30 and 32 points in the two games against the Coyotes earlier in the season.

“We put in a box-and-one on one’s day prep,” Showman said of the defensive strategy for Roberts. “I’ve never in my 14 years as a college coach run a box-and-one. I have to give all the credit to coach (Carolyn) Jenkins and coach (Dwanisha) Tate.

“We split up our (scouting) reports – I took Southwestern and on one day prep and they were already looking at Mac. They came to me and said, ‘we’ve got a great game plan, we want to go box-and-one.’ They were catalyst behind this win with their game plan.”

Nonetheless McPherson appeared on the verge of pulling away in the second quarter leading by eight early in the period and by seven on three occasions later on.

But two LaMyah Ricks (FR/Shawnee Mission, Kan.) 3-pointers and three Courtney Brockhoff (JR/Hiawatha, Kan.) free throws helped KWU get within 32-29 at intermission despite 26.5 percent shooting (9 of 34) and 13 turnovers.

Mureeba had a big game in addition to Hinz finishing with 15 points (11 in the second half) on 6 of 12 shooting and had eight rebounds. The Coyotes shot 41.7 percent the second half (15 of 36) and 34.3 percent (24 of 70) for the game.

Diaz led McPherson (16-9) with 18 points as the Bulldogs shot 38 percent (27 of 71) and had 19 turnovers.

KWU will now try to become the first team to defeat Sterling this season. The Warriors (27-0) outlasted Friends 71-60 Thursday in a quarterfinal game in Sterling. The championship contest will be played at 8 p.m. Monday inside Hartman Arena in Park City.

“We knew all along the conference tournament championship and our ticket to (NAIA) nationals was going to go through Sterling,” Showman said. “We’re going to be ready, and you could tell by the look on the girls’ faces after that clock hit zero, they were ready for the next one.

“These girls have got that urgency, they’ve got that fire and we’re going to go and give absolutely everything we have.”