The apprehension and fear LaMyah Ricks (FR/Shawnee Mission, Kan.) felt at the beginning of Kansas Wesleyan’s basketball season is rapidly evaporating.
Unsure if and how she would be able to compete at the college level after a successful career at DeSoto High School, Ricks found a path forward.
Judging by her play of late, particularly Saturday night, she has graduated from newbie to key Coyote component.
Ricks kick-started KWU’s recently balky offense with 12 first-half points off the bench and finished with a career-high 14 in helping the Coyotes to a much-needed 58-50 Kansas Conference victory over Friends inside Mabee Arena.
“It was a hard start, especially at the beginning of the season,” said Ricks, the Coyotes’ 5-foot-5 back-up point guard. “I didn’t have any confidence and I felt out of place.
“As we’ve been progressing, I’ve been building my confidence and being more aggressive.”
That confidence was on display Saturday. Tied 8-8 late in the first quarter Ricks made a 3-point basket from the left baseline, was fouled on the shot and made the free throw.
Trailing 17-14 at the start of the second quarter she scored, was fouled again and made the free throw, then added five more points on a 3-pointer and two-point field goal over the next 2:13 that gave KWU a 24-20 lead with 7 minutes left in the half.
Ricks credits her teammates for helping her adjust.
“The girls are so welcoming,” she said. “I’ve had a great experience and I love playing with all of them. Their energy helps bring me to my best.”
Ricks was 5 of 10 from the field, 2 of 2 at the foul line and had three steals, an assist and a block in 26 minutes of play.
Showman said Ricks improvement has come through trial and error.
“Sometimes freshmen, when they’re put in this position, come into their own as the season goes on,” he said. “LaMyah’s no different. She’s provided that extra spark for us off the bench.
“I think LaMyah’s just scratching the surface of really how great she can be. We’re throwing her to the fire, it’s not something I really like to do. I always tell them I’m never going to put them in a position I don’t think they can be successful in but she’s finding her way.”
Ricks made both of KWU’s 3-pointers in the game (2 of 13) but says that’s not her forte.
“It’s not my thing, I’d rather drive,” she said. “But if it’s an open shot, why not?”
Gabby Mureeba (SO/Allen, Texas) led the Coyotes with 16 points on 7 of 8 shooting while Amanda Hill (SR/Rossville, Kan.) had 11 points and nine rebounds, and Kelcey Hinz (JR/Whitewater, Kan.) 11 rebounds, seven rebounds, three blocks and two steals. KWU shot 41 percent (23 of 56) and outscored Friends 38-18 in the paint.
KWU ended a two-game skid and improved to 7-6 overall, 6-4 in the KCAC. The Coyotes had lost three of four entering play Saturday and Showman was happy to get off the schneid.
“That team deserved to win tonight,” he said. “It’s been a tough stretch. There were some things we had to take a step back and refocus on and do a little bit better. I’m so happy for them they were able to get this done.”
The Coyotes pulled away late in the third quarter. Tied at 38 they embarked on a decisive 12-0 run that continued into the fourth quarter and gave them a 50-38 lead with just over 7 minutes left. Friends got no closer than six (56-50) the rest of the way.
Neither team scored during a stretch of 3:40 late in the game – KWU breaking the ice on Ricks’ layup with 1:04 remaining.
The Coyotes excelled on the defensive end all night, limiting Friends to 29 percent shooting (17 of 59) – just 23 percent (7 of 30) the second half. They were especially good guarding the perimeter the final 20 minutes after Friends made 6 of 11 shots beyond the arc the first half. The Falcons were 7 of 19 from deep for the game.
“Eighteen of their 30 points (at halftime) were from the 3-point line,” Showman said. “We talked about if we can limit their good looks (at the rim) we’ll be in business. I thought we did a good job adjusting to that.”
“Overall, I thought we were pretty darn good defensively. They got stops and rebounds, and just enough offense to win the game.”
Khadijah Miller led Friends (3-6, 1-5 KCAC) with 12 points.
The Coyotes play Avila at 6 p.m. Monday in Kansas City, Mo., in their last game before the holiday break. The Eagles (2-6, 1-6 KCAC) lost at home to suddenly surging York 57-54 Saturday.