Following the narrow defeat to St. Mary, Kansas Wesleyan men’s basketball head coach Anthony Monson was searching for toughness.
The Coyotes responded in the biggest way.
Junior guard Rashun Allen drilled a three with 34 seconds left, sophomore Nate Leach locked down Bethel’s Chase Banister for the game-tying three, and the Coyotes held on for an 82-77 victory at Thresher Gymnasium on Saturday.
Sophomore forward Jordan McNelly set the tone. The former Cloud County Community College T-Bird poured in 18 points on 8-of-11 shooting in the first half. Neither squad could gain a substantial cushion. KWU was up by seven early, but the lead changed six times and was tied up seven different occasions. Freshman guard Brayden White closed out the first half with a dish to senior forward Raul Neri to put the Coyotes up 38-35.
The seesaw battle didn’t stop there. Both teams traded advantages another eight times. Bethel’s last push was a 10-0 spurt to give the Threshers their largest lead of the game at 75-68 with under 4:30 remaining.
Allen combined with senior Terell Gandy to propel the Coyotes back out front. After going one-of-two of the free throw line, Leach manned up Banister on a fadeaway three at the top of the key. The shot rimmed off to McNelly, who handed off the ball to Allen with 2.2 seconds remaining. Allen iced the game with two free throws to finish with 11, giving Wesleyan the win.
McNelly was stellar, putting up a career-best 28 points on 12-of-16 shooting with eight rebounds. Gandy had 10 points and three assists. Senior forward Raul Neri chipped in 10 points. Bethel sophomore Poe Bryant broke free for a season-high 21 points.
KWU (5-4, 3-2 KCAC) goes back home on Wednesday to take on No. 8 Southwestern (11-0, 5-0). The doubleheader begins at 6 pm with pregame at 5:45 on FM 104.9.
KANSAS WESLEYAN 51, BETHEL 36
Senior Sydney Mortensen teamed up with freshman Alexandra Berger for 13 of the 15 points in the opening quarter. Mortensen connected on two threes while Berger came off the bench to score a career-high seven points, giving KWU a 15-11 lead after one.
Bethel took over in the second, riding a 9-0 wave to a 20-15 cushion. Then, Wesleyan senior Mariah Knox and sophomore Haleigh Bradford ignited a fire that couldn’t be stopped. Knox and Bradford each had seven points in a 17-2 explosion to end the first half, putting KWU ahead 32-22.
Much like the first quarter, Mortensen started the second half with a pair of triples, ballooning the run to 23-2. Wesleyan’s largest lead came in the fourth quarter when the Coyotes jumped out to a 49-30 cushion.
Mortensen had the team-high of 12 points for the Coyotes. Defensively, Wesleyan forced 23 turnovers and held the Threshers to 22 percent from the floor.
Kansas Wesleyan (6-5, 4-1) hosts Southwestern (2-9, 1-4) on Wednesday.