LEAVENWORTH – Amanda Hill (JR/Rossville, Kan.) and Kelcey Hinz (SO/Whitewater, Kan.) weren’t about to let Kansas Wesleyan’s five-game winning streak end in a place where the Coyotes have had limited success in past seasons.
Hill and Hinz scored 20 points apiece, combining for 15 during the pivotal fourth quarter as KWU pulled away for a 71-57 Kansas Conference victory over Saint Mary inside the Freeman Center on Wednesday.
The Coyotes improved to 10-3 with their sixth consecutive victory and are 6-2 in the KCAC, tied with Avila for second place, one game behind Sterling (7-1).
Hill scored 18 points the second half and had nine in the fourth quarter when Wesleyan took control. Two Saint Mary free throws tied the game 44-44 with 9:29 left, but the Coyotes promptly embarked on a 27-9 run that gave them a 71-53 lead and with less than a minute left. Hill and Hinz accounted for 14 points in a row at one point during the surge.
Backup post player Lauren Flowers (SO/Overland Park, Kan.) added 10 points as KWU outscored the Spires 30-12 in the paint and committed just seven turnovers while forcing 18 that led to 20 points. The Coyotes shot 44.4 percent for the game (24 of 54), but sizzled the second half shooting 53.8 percent (14 of 26).
They did their damage closer to the basket. Hill was 8 of 16 from the and had five rebounds; Hinz 5 of 7 from the field, a perfect 10 for 10 from the foul and six rebounds; and Flowers 3 of 4 from the field and four rebounds.
“I thought our paint production was the big difference and the reason why we won tonight,” Coach Ryan Showman said on his postgame radio show.
On the flip side, Saint Mary (2-11, 2-7) shot 50 percent the second half (13 of 26), 43 percent for the game (21 of 49) and was 7 of 15 beyond the arc for the game. Danielle Cassady led Saint Mary with 19 points and seven rebounds while Rebecca Gilpin had 12 points on four 3-pointers, all in the second half.
The Spires also out-rebounded the Coyotes 34-29.
“We didn’t play well in certain areas that we have in the past, but you’re never going to hear me apologize for the way we win because in this league, on the road and definitely in this building you can’t take things like that for granted,” Showman said.
“I told them I was proud of them for overcoming an awful lot of adversity with finals and being run down and we’ve got some illness and things like that. We made enough plays to win. Any time you turn it over only seven times on the road you can offset a lot of missed shots.”
The Coyote led 18-6 after the first quarter and 27-19 at halftime. The Spires made it interesting in the third quarter, though, thanks to 5-of-5 shooting from long range – three by Gilpin. They trailed 44-42 entering the final 10 minutes after tying it up twice at 40-40 and 42-42 late in the third quarter.
Showman, though, was pleased with his team’s 2-3 zone overall.
“You have to credit our kids for playing at a high level defensively,” he said. “You hold a team to (57) points, that’s what we want to do. We feel like we can be successful and have enough offensive opportunities to give ourselves a chance to win if we do that defensively.”
The Coyotes close out the pre-holiday portion of their schedule with a game against an improved Southwestern team Saturday at Mabee Arena, starting at 5 p.m. The Moundbuilders (7-5, 4-4 KCAC) defeated York 77-68 Wednesday in Winfield.
“I told the girls in the locker room ‘I’ll see you Friday night,’ ” Showman said. “‘Go and do what you’ve got to do, focus on your academics, but find some time to enjoy this one because wins are so hard to come by.’ ”