OTTAWA – Kansas Wesleyan Coach Ryan Showman was at a loss for words following Wednesday’s game against Ottawa at Wilson Field House.
Showman’s Coyotes claimed no worse than a share of the Kansas Conference women’s basketball crown and locked in the tournament’s top seed as the Coyotes beat the Braves 57-50. It’s the first conference title for the Coyotes since 2011.
“I just don’t what to say,” Showman said. “Words can’t describe the amount of joy I have coaching these players and watching them play. They play for each other, they like each other and they just find ways to win.”
Just like last Thursday’s win on the road at Southwestern, the Coyotes had to battle down to the last minutes of the game. This time the Coyotes had to come back from a deficit, trailing by as many as six points in the third quarter.
It came down to the defense making plays.A steal by Jayme Sloan (SR/Bennington, Kan.) that led to a bucket by Lauren Flowers (SO/Overland Park, Kan.) with a minute to go in the third got the Coyote rally started, and it was Haleigh Bradford (SR/Schertz, Texas)’s steal, bucket and free throw to open the fourth that got the game tied at 38-38.
Sloan finished the night with four steals, as did Kayla Vallin (SR/Aurora, Colo.), all of Vallin’s coming in the second quarter.
Jayme Sloan was dynamite. Kayla Vallin was dynamite, and in a game where its low possession, low score you’ve got to be able to get stops and we certainly did just that,” Showman said. “I knew it was just going to be a matter of time before we’d string together a couple stops and get a couple scores that was going to give us the cushion we needed.”
An Ottawa turnover with the Braves leading by six produced points for the Coyotes and a transition bucket by Amanda Hill (JR/Rossville, Kan.) got the Coyotes back within two with 4:30 left in the third, making it 35-33.
The Braves hit a 3 to go up five before Sloan’s steal and feed to Flowers started Wesleyan’s rally.
Amanda Hill tied the game at 40-all with 7:49 left and Kelcey Hinz (SO/Whitewater, Kan.) converted her first points of the night with 5:58 left that put KWU up 42-40.
Ottawa again answered with a 3 to take a 43-42 lead but Hill’s free throws with 3:50 left gave KWU a lead that it would not relinquish the rest of the way.
“We battled through adversity and that’s what I am most proud of our group for. They don’t get rattled, they don’t get shaken,” Showman said. “Even when I am going crazy on the sideline, they’re fine out on the court and we find a way.”
The Coyotes would convert free throws down the stretch building as much as a 7-point lead three times in the final 20 seconds.
Hill led all scorers in the game with 23 points, while Hinz was held to seven points and Courtney Heinen (SR/Axtell, Kan.) was held without a point for the first time since November 6 against Bellevue. She responded with 28 two nights later against Embry-Riddle.
“That’s what you see in championship teams; more than one person stepping up and it’s people making plays and I thought our people stepped up and made plays,” Showman said.
Wesleyan’s defense forced 23 Ottawa turnovers that yielded 25 points and the Coyotes won the fourth quarter 22-12 after trailing by three after three quarters at 38-35.
The Coyotes fell behind 7-2 early in the game but outscored Ottawa 12-3 over the rest of the third quarter to take a 14-10 lead after the first.
Bradford’s triple with 7:50 left in the second gave Wesleyan its biggest lead of the night at 20-12, but a 10-2 Ottawa run tied things at 22 with 4:08 to go before the half.
Hill would hit a 3 to push Wesleyan’s lead out to five at 27-22 before Ottawa closed the game to 27-24 at the break.
An 11-2 run by Ottawa to start the third quarter gave the Braves a 35-29 lead before the Coyote rally started.
“This championship is something that we’ve been building towards for a long time and this team is the one that was able to do it, to get us back to the top and I am certainly proud of them,” Showman said.
The Coyotes can claim the title outright on Saturday with a victory over Oklahoma Wesleyan in the regular season finale at Mabee Arena. Tipoff is scheduled for 5 p.m.