Kansas Wesleyan women’s basketball coach Ryan Showman was really pleased with his team’s efforts after Saturday’s 74-63 win over the Bethel Threshers at Mabee Arena. The Coyotes posted their seventh straight win and head into a 14-day break with a 10-4 record, including an 8-1 mark in KCAC play.
“I enjoy how coachable these kids are, their commitment and buy-in to our process,” he said. “They trust the coaches and each other and those are huge things, things that we knew could be strengths for us this year and you’re seeing it.”
Wesleyan’s defense was exceptional through the first three quarters, limiting Bethel to only 31 points through the first 30 minutes. Bethel would score 32 points in the final 10 minutes, but Wesleyan would hold onto its lead, getting timely conversions when needed.
“We did a lot of what has worked for us the first three quarters – executing, finishing plays, getting stops defensively,” Showman said. “That’s really been the backbone for us and I thought we did a great job even when Bethel picked up their pace in the fourth quarter.”
Bethel outscored the Coyotes 32-21 in the final period paced by 14 by Jade Brown, while star Abby Schmidt scored eight in the period as well, finishing with 19 for the game, along with eight rebounds, which is below her season rebounding average of 11.2 per game.
“I thought we did a really good job of defending (Schmidt) and taking (Bethel) out of its sets where they tried to isolate her and took away a lot of second chances, which is what we had to do,” Showman said. “She’s a good player and she’s going to get her points and rebounds. I thought Janai did a good job of coming off the bench and defended her well.”
Mitchell was part of a three-tiered defensive attack in the post for the Coyotes along with Virja Lewis (SO/Kansas City, Kan.) and Maddie Miller (SR/Kiefer, Okla.). Mitchell was able to come in off the bench and provide key minutes for the Coyotes.
“She had a great game I was very pleased with her efforts both on defense and offense,” Showman said.
Wesleyan roared out to a 12-3 lead to open the game with just under five minutes left in the opening quarter, but Bethel got back within five at 12-7 with 4:04 left. Back came the Coyotes, pushing the lead back out to nine at 16-7 on Gabbie Miller (SR/Kiefer, Okla.)’s bucket with 2:46 to go in the quarter.
Bethel scored the final six points of the quarter cutting Wesleyan’s lead to 16-13 after the first 10 minutes.
Sydney Mortensen (SR/Wichita, Kan.) scored six points in a key 18-8 run for the Coyotes in the second quarter, giving KWU a 34-21 lead at the half. Bethel had cut the difference to a point at 18-17 with 8:23 left, but Wesleyan responded with a 7-0 run to take a 25-17 lead with 6:09 to go on a 3 by Mortensen.
Mitchell’s bucket with 1:10 left gave the Coyotes a 34-18 lead.
Bethel cut the KWU lead to 10 at 36-26 with 8:07 left in the third, only to see the Coyotes quickly turn things in their favor, taking a 51-29 lead on a bucket by Gabbie Miller with 2:32 left in the quarter. KWU led 53-31 at the end of the third.
Mortensen’s 3 to open the fourth quarter put the Coyotes up 25 at 56-31 before Bethel made a run. The Threshers got within 17 with eight minutes left and cut the lead to 12 with 2:18 to go. Bethel got as close as eight down the stretch, but the Coyotes would get free throws in the final minute by Haleigh Bradford (JR/Schertz, Texas) and Kayla Kivinski (SR/Port Richey, Fla.) to seal the victory.
Gabbie Miller scored a team-high 16 points as three Coyotes scored in double figures as Mortensen had 14 and Bradford 13. KWU was 27-of-70 from the field for 38.6 percent. Lewis had seven rebounds for the Coyotes leading KWU to a 35-34 rebounding advantage. Kivinski and Gabbie Miller had three steals each as KWU forced 27 Bethel turnovers, turning them into 23 points.
“I am so happy for Gabbie,” Showman said. “She had struggled offensively the first part of the season, but she’s really turned things around on that end of the floor and it is great to see her have a quality night. She plays so hard on defense and makes a ton of plays for us, it’s great to see that translate into offensive production for her.”
The Coyotes got many valuable minutes off the bench, which contributed 20 points on the night.
“Jayme Sloan (JR/Bennington, Kan.) was another player that came in off the bench and gave us quality minutes,” Showman added. “That’s a beautiful thing about our team, we have that ability to adjust. A person can come in for another person and we don’t really lose a beat, and I think that is what it is going to take for a team to finish in the top three or four this year in the league. It’s been a lot of fun to watch these women enjoy these last seven games.”
The Coyotes return to action on December 29, hosting Mid-America Christian (Okla.) in the Rib Crib Coyote Classic. KWU returns to KCAC play on January 2, heading to Hillsboro to take on No. 19 ranked Tabor.
Bethel 65, Kansas Wesleyan 60
The Christmas break is coming at an advantageous time for the Kansas Wesleyan men’s basketball team.
The Coyotes erased a nine-point halftime deficit before fading down the stretch in a 65-60 Kansas Conference loss to Bethel on Saturday night at Mabee Arena.
The loss was the second in a row for KWU, which takes a 6-6 overall record (4-5 KCAC) into the holiday hiatus. Bethel moves to 7-6 and 4-5.
KWU was behind the proverbial 8-ball before the opening tip. Starting center A.J. Range watched the game in street clothes because of a hip injury and starting forward Jordan McNelly (JR/Salina, Kan,) stayed home because of an illness.
Foul problems and an injury to starting guard James Brooks (JR/Cherokee, Kan.) late in the game only compounded matters.
Despite the absences the Coyotes crafted a 14-6 lead the first 6½ minutes of the game before things unraveled. Bethel, which was without leading scorer Dakota Foster, took off on a 21-2 run and led 27-16 with 3:46 left in the half. Wesleyan made 1 of 14 shots and Bethel 8 of 13 during that span.
“We got off to a good start and then just kind of fell asleep,” KWU coach Anthony Monson said. “We fell in love with some jump shots and we shot just two free throws the first half.
“When you’re not hitting your shots and you’re not getting to the free throw line you’re giving them a lot of opportunities to get the lead or extend the lead.”
Down 34-25 at halftime the Coyotes rallied and tied the game 44-44 on a Brooks’ 3-pointer with 11:30 left, but couldn’t take the lead.
Clinging to a 50-49 lead with 8 minutes remaining, Bethel regained control with a 7-2 surge.
Wesleyan made it close again in the waning seconds, but fell short. Darius Hammond (SO/Dallas, Texas)’s 3-pointer with 15.4 seconds made it 62-58 and his basket with 5.5 seconds left trimmed the deficit to 63-60. Bethel clinched the victory with two Jaylen Scott free throws with 3.7 seconds left.
Rebounding and free throws were KWU’s undoing. The Threshers won the rebounding battle 43-23 and were 17 of 23 at the foul line while the Coyotes were 6 of 13.
“We fought hard the second half. We battled, we compete,” Monson said. “It’s hard to win a game, though, when you get out-rebounded by 20. You can’t shoot 46 percent from the free throw line, either.
“We just didn’t make the plays we needed to to win. It doesn’t really matter who’s on the floor, you play five guys and you’ve just got to go with it.”
Wesleyan shot 39 percent from the field (23 of 59) compared to Bethel’s 44 percent (22 of 50). The Coyotes had just six turnovers and Bethel 17.
Guard Hammond, who started in place of McNelly, scored a team-high 19 points on 7 of 13 shooting, including 4 of 5 from 3-point range. Brooks had 14 points and was 3 of 7 beyond the arc while Marquis Kraemer (SO/Aurora, Colo.) scored 13 to go along with four rebounds, two assists and two steals.
Scott and Kiesean Weiher, both freshmen, led Bethel. Scott finished with 18 points and 11 rebounds while Weiher had 18 points and six rebounds. Reserve guard Danen Kistner, a sophomore, added 13 points.
The area most impacted by the makeshift lineup was the post, according to Monson. Ithello Cross (SR/Gainesville, Ga.), who started in place of Range, was in foul trouble most of the game and had six points and two rebounds before fouling out in the final minute.
“We didn’t have a dominant inside presence,” Monson said. “When we were playing really well in that three-game winning streak we really established a post presence. That made life easier on our guards and wore the defense down.
“Now we became more guard oriented and there were just a lot of guys on the perimeter. It hurts. That’s why you have a post man, that’s why you have to get post touches in there. It frees up the guards and, unfortunately, we weren’t able to get enough touches in there. We ran out of post players tonight.”
Monson said he and his players are ready for a break.
“I think everybody needs to recharge, I need to recharge, my players need to recharge,” he said. “Christmas is a special time, it’s time you spend with your family.
“At the end of the day, losing a game is peanuts compared to what life really is. I told my guys ‘just go home, recharge, give your mom and dad a hug, enjoy the time you get to spend with them, get in the gym, run to keep your cardio up so when you come back here you’re ready to go on the 26th (of December).’ ”
The Coyotes resume play Dec. 29, when they play Hastings (Neb.) in a non-conference game. Tip-off is 5 p.m. at Mabee Arena. Their next KCAC game is against Tabor on Jan. 2 in Hillsboro, starting at 8 p.m.