NORTH NEWTON – For Kelcey Hinz (SO/Whitewater, Kan.), it was a simple matter of doing what she and her Kansas Wesleyan teammates do best.
“We were just playing like we know how to play,” Hinz said Saturday following the Coyotes’ 67-55 Kansas Conference victory over Bethel in Thresher Gymnasium. “Getting back to our way of shooting and just having fun.”
The victory came after No. 24 Coyotes saw their 14-game conference winning streak end in a 63-42 loss to Avila on Wednesday in Kansas City, Mo., and Hinz and her teammates were eager to get back on the court and get back on track.
The loss dropped them into a tie for second with Avila in the conference standings, half a game behind Sterling. Avila couldn’t keep pace, though, losing to Tabor 73-68 Saturday in Hillsboro. Sterling remained in first, defeated McPherson 93-83 Saturday in Sterling.
The Coyotes’ victory – their eighth in a row over Bethel – raised their record to 19-5 overall and 15-3 in the KCAC. Bethel fell to 11-3 and 7-11.
Hinz had a particularly rough night against Avila, taking just three shots and scoring four points, although she did have 12 rebounds.
“Just relaxing and having fun,” Hinz said of the difference. “Just being who we are and not being so mentally tough on ourselves and trying to be so prepared and be so concerned with who we’re playing. Just playing how we play.”
Superb was how they played Saturday, especially Hinz, who finished with 20 points, nine rebounds, six blocks and three assists. She set the tone early, scoring eight points the first quarter and had 12 by halftime.
She wasn’t alone as Triple H was back in business – Courtney Heinen (SR/Axtell, Kan.) had19 points, six rebounds and four steals, and Amanda Hill (JR/Rossville, Kan.) 17 points and eight rebounds.
“Amanda Hill, Courtney Heinen, Kelcey Hinz – you call them Triple H – were awesome tonight,” KWU coach Ryan Showman said. “The other night was one of those nights that happens. We knew we had to get back to really executing our offense. We were too rushed and didn’t have good spacing on Wednesday, so we focused on our spacing and making good, confident passes and then finishing.”
Abby Schmidt led Bethel with 22 points and 18 rebounds, but the Coyotes did a good job slowing the rest of the Threshers.
“We knew the supporting cast around her had struggled the last few games,” Showman said. “We knew if she got her points and we could limit other folks on the floor we would be in a good spot because we had multiple scorers out there at different times.”
Showman said his team was ready to play after the KC debacle.
“We talked about responding, we talked about great teams respond when they’re hit with adversity,” he said. “We were hit with a lot of adversity for the first time in a long time on Wednesday and it was really great to get back to practice on Thursday, it was great to get in here, tough place and get a win. To finally turn the page fully.”
Bethel shot 34 percent (23 of 68), but was just 1 of 17 beyond the arc. KWU shot 38 percent (25 of 66), was 4 of 11 from deep and made 13 of 15 free throws.
The Coyotes closed the first half on a 7-2 run and led 29-27 at the break. Leading 33-32 with just over 4 minutes left in the third quarter, they went on a decisive 11-2 surge and led 44-38 entering the final quarter.
They led by as many as 14 twice the final 10 minutes.
“It all started on the defensive end,” Showman said of the third quarter rally. “We got stops, we took away their offensive rebounding – they had 10 the first half and we knew we had to cut that in half and we did it. It was just a matter of time before we were going to hit some shots.”
Saturday’s game was the last of the Coyotes’ three-game road swing. They have six remaining regular-season games and four of them are in Mabee Arena, starting with York at 6 p.m. Wednesday. They play Saint Mary at 5 p.m. Saturday in Mabee Arena.