KWU Women Holds on for Harrowing Win over Swedes, 56-55

LINDSBORG – Ryan Showman had coached 269 games in his eight-plus seasons as head women’s coach at Kansas Wesleyan entering Saturday’s Kansas Conference contest against archrival Bethany.

He’d witnessed several stirring, memorable and historic victories in that time but nothing, in his mind, compared to what he experienced Saturday inside Hahn Gymnasium.

Riding a three-game losing streak and coming off a two-week pause because of COVID-19 related issues that allowed them just a couple of practices a couple of days before tipoff, the Coyotes somehow managed to squeeze out a harrowing 56-55 victory.

Amanda Hill (SR/Rossville, Kan.)’s field goal with 1:28 left gave KWU the 56-55 lead and the Coyotes survived two late turnovers and two Bethany missed shots – the last in the final second.

“I don’t know that I’ve ever been more proud of a team in a game, win or lose, than I am right now for the way they battled and fought through adversity and found a way to win on the road,” Showman said on his postgame radio show. “Not often am I at a loss for words but I’m having trouble articulating my thoughts into words. This was a very emotional win for us.”

Wesleyan played without starting guard Mia Needles (JR/Highland Ranch, Colo.) and overcame 25 turnovers in raising its record to 10-9 overall and 9-7 in the conference. Bethany fell to 13-8 and 11-8.

It was the Coyotes’ first game since a 73-69 road loss to McPherson on January 23 – a game they led 69-61 with 4 minutes left.

“We left a really tough situation going into quarantine,” Showman said. “Losing three in a row and terrible ways to lose a game, with the lead, a couple of weeks ago. We came out of quarantine with a couple of practices to get our legs underneath us and get ready for a really good Bethany team on the road.”

KWU trailed 29-24 at halftime after scoring the last six points of the half but committed 14 turnovers that resulted in 15 Bethany points the first 20 minutes.

The Coyotes found their stride during intermission and opened the third quarter with a 14-3 run – Kelcey Hinz (JR/Whitewater, Kan.) scoring seven after taking and missing just one shot the first half.

Leading 50-46 following a Gabby Mureeba (SO/Allen, Texas) basket with 6:16 left in the game Bethany scored seven straight and led 53-50 with 4:16 left.

Two Caila Hill (SO/Rossville, Kan.) free throws and an Amanda Hill basket gave KWU a 54-53 lead, but Hannah Ferguson scored with 2:13 remaining to give the Swedes a 55-54 advantage. It was their last offensive hurrah, though.

The final seconds were a mad scramble. Amanda Hill stole a Bethany pass and KWU called time out with 12 seconds left but Hill lost the ball on the inbounds play with 11 seconds remaining.

Following a Bethany time out Ferguson misfired on a guarded shot with one second left. The Swedes got the rebound but Julie Nygard’s shot came after the final horn sounded.

The Coyotes limited Bethany to 39.2 percent shooting (20 of 51) and won the rebounding battle 35-25 – nine of them offensive that led to 10 points. Bethany had two second chance points.

“Our girls just didn’t quit, they found a way to get a (defensive) stop, they found a way to score, we got out in transition,” Showman said. “It’s just something we needed really, really badly.”

Mureeba led KWU with 13 points on 5 of 7 shooting from the field while Amanda Hill had 10 points, 11 rebounds, four assists and four steals. Hinz added seven points, six rebounds, three blocks and three steals, and Caila Hill had nine points, five rebounds and three assists. KWU shot 43.5 percent (20 of 46), including 3 of 13 from long range, and was 13 of 17 from the foul line.

Autumn Garrett led Bethany with 16 points while Halei Wortham had 10.

The Coyotes travel to Bartlesville, Okla., Monday to play Oklahoma Wesleyan in a 6 p.m. make-up game inside the Mueller Sports Center. KWU plays Tabor Wednesday in Hillsboro and York next Saturday inside Mabee Arena.