STERLING – Trying to upset the unbeaten and No. 9 Sterling Warriors on their home court was a daunting enough task for the Kansas Wesleyan women.
Doing so after playing four games the previous seven days was a hill too steep for the Coyotes to climb.
Six Sterling players scored in double figures and the Warriors used a 21-3 third quarter run en route to an 89-69 victory over KWU in a Kansas Conference Championship semifinal game Saturday night at the Gleason Center.
The Coyotes end the season with a 16-11 record after winning seven of their final nine games. Sterling advances to the title game against Tabor Monday night at Hartman Arena in Park City.
A 14-2 burst gave Sterling 16-8 lead late in the first quarter and the Warriors built their advantage to 44-28 by halftime.
The Coyotes made things interesting, though, scoring seven of the first nine points of the third quarter and trailed 46-35 with eight minutes left in the period.
That’s when the Warriors embarked on the withering 21-3 burst – Kylah Comley scoring 10 – that gave them a 67-28 lead. They scored 31 points in the quarter and took a 75-48 lead into the final 10 minutes.
KWU’s fatigue was reflected in some key numbers. Sterling won the rebounding battle 52-38, 21 on the offensive end that led to 19 second-chance points. They also forced 16 turnovers that led to 16 points.
“They looked like they’d played two games in eight days and not five,” Wesleyan coach Ryan Showman said on his postgame radio show. “We knew we had a run in us in that third quarter and I thought we got off to a great start but when you don’t get stops it’s really hard to cut the lead down. It was just constantly playing catch-up, and it was a tough way to finish things.”
The Coyotes didn’t quit, though, scoring 21 points in the fourth quarter led by reserve guard LaMyah Ricks (FR/Shawnee Mission, Kan.) who tallied 11 of her career-high 17.
“She was really good,” Showman said. “We’ve seen her maturation from the first game until this last game. We’ve seen the growth and progress she’s made.
“Even in a dark time like this it gives me so much excitement for the future because we’ve got guards like LaMyah Ricks and Gabby Mureeba (SO/Allen, Texas) coming back with big varsity minutes early in their careers. There’s some optimism for the future.”
Mureeba scored 15 and Amanda Hill (SR/Rossville, Kan.) and Kelcey Hinz (JR/Whitewater, Kan.) each had 13. Hinz also grabbed 13 rebounds for her 16th double-double of the season and Hill snagged eight rebounds. KWU shot 36 percent (25 of 69) and was 5 of 22 from deep.
Comley led Sterling with 23 points, eight rebounds and eight assists. The Warriors shot 42.7 percent (35 of 82) and were 7 of 18 from beyond the arc. Four players grabbed at least seven rebounds.
“Sterling’s a really good team, they’re undefeated for a reason,” Showman said. “They absolutely outplayed us for long stretches and going on the road against good teams you can’t allow that to happen.”
Showman said the loss won’t diminish what his team accomplished during the season.
“This game isn’t what I’m going to think of when I think of this season and this team,” he said. “What I’m going to think of is how they still had goals in front of them and they fought like heck to get those goals. They won seven of their last nine, they played really well together, had high energy every single day, every single game. I’m just really proud of them.”