LINDSBORG – Amanda Hill calls it the “play we all love.”
Kansas Wesleyan fans love it as well after Saturday night.
Hill took an pass from Kayla Vallin close to the basket and banked in a short shot as time expired, giving the No. 24-ranked Coyotes a frantic 60-58 victory over Kansas Conference rival Bethany in the First Bank Kansas Smoky Hill Showdown at Hahn Gymnasium.
The victory was the 14th in the last 15 for the Coyotes – all of the wins against KCAC opponents. They remain in first place in the conference at 14-2, half a game ahead of Sterling, and are 18-4 overall.
As has been the case so often when the Coyotes and Swedes play, this one was tight, tense and not without controversy.
The Coyotes appeared to be in good shape, leading 58-55 in the closing seconds. But Bethany’s Julia Nyguard stole the ball and hit a 3-pointer from the right wing with 5.0 seconds left that tied it at 58. It was her only shot and field goal of the game.
Following a time out the Coyotes retained possession after a jump ball with 0.8 seconds left. Vallin, who standing under the goal and called the play, got the ball to Hill, who was to the right rim. She caught it and quickly put up the game-winning shot.
Bethany’s coaches vehemently argued she didn’t get it off in time. Game officials huddled at mid-court and discussed it before counting the basket.
“We knew that there wasn’t much time left, so we ran a play that we all love,” Hill said. “I just knew that when I caught the ball I had to get it off as quick as I could.”
Hill said she ended up with the ball on the play that’s designed to go to whoever is open.
“We were all just cutting, trying to get open – anyone that was open,” she said. “Kayla did a great job getting (the ball) in there, I don’t know how it got through two hands. It was awesome.”
“What’s funny about that play is I don’t know,” Coach Ryan Showman said, “because it changes every time. It’s kind of an open-ended play, kind of silly. But we know when to break and where to go and the ball just found Amanda. And Kayla made a great pass.”
Hill was the second last-second hero in three days for the Coyotes after Jayme Sloan’s four-point play with 2.6 seconds left sent them past Friends 80-76 Thursday in Mabee Arena.
Bethany (12-5, 15-7 KCAC) entered the play Saturday having won nine of its previous 10 games.
“It was huge,” Hill said of the victory that gave the Coyotes a sweep of the regular-season series. “We know Bethany’s really tough and we knew they’d be ready after what happened last time (79-52 KWU victory November 26 in Mabee Arena).
“They came out really strong and really physical and I think that kind of shook us in the beginning, but we kept our composure through their runs and kept going.”
Hill finished with 12 points and six rebounds while Haleigh Bradford had 14 points – 12 the first half – and Kelcey Hinz 10 points, 12 rebounds for her 11th double-double of the season. She also blocked three shots.
Lauren Welsch led Bethany with 10 points and six rebounds.
The game was close throughout — eight ties times and seven lead changes. The Swedes led 31-28 at halftime, but a 12-5 KWU run the final 3:50 of the third quarter gave the Coyotes a 48-41 advantage entering the fourth quarter.
Their lead grew to nine (50-41) before Bethany went on a 13-2 run and led 54-52 with 4½ minutes left. A 6-0 spurt gave the Coyotes a 58-54 lead before Bethany pulled even on Nyguard’s shot.
KWU shot 40 percent (24 of 60), limited Bethany to 36 percent (22 of 62) and won the rebounding battle 46-36, but had 19 turnovers that led to 19 Swedes’ points. Bethany was 8 of 20 from 3-point range, KWU 4 of 18.
“They were very physical defensively,” Showman said of Bethany, “and I don’t think we did a good job adjusting to that physicality on Thursday. It took us two quarters this time instead of three (Thursday) and we were able to come out and have a really good third quarter, get some stops, make some baskets, get them on their heels.
“But, as we expected, they came right back.”
The Coyotes’ three-game road trip continues Wednesday with a game against Avila in Kansas City, Mo. Tip-off is 6 p.m.
Avila’s third in the KCAC standings at 12-3 and is 12-6 overall. The Eagles have won six in a row, including an 84-76 victory Oklahoma Wesleyan on Saturday in Bartlesville, Okla.
“I’m just so proud of that team,” Showman said. “They find ways to win.”