Their 12-point halftime lead, constructed with a solid first-half effort, was gone.
A miserable third quarter and dismal first 7½ minutes of the fourth quarter had the Kansas Wesleyan women staring at a 45-42 deficit with just 3½ left to play in a crucial Kansas Conference game against Bethel.
The culprit was missed shots, a veritable avalanche of them – just four made field goals and 23 misses in the first 17 minutes of the second half.
The Coyotes somehow found the remedy, though – something akin to a bolt from the blue. Kelcey Hinz (SR/Whitewater, Kan.) broke the ice with a basket with 2:28 left and KWU proceeded to make three more shots and a couple of free throws while clamping down on defense at the other end of the court.
The result was 10-3 closing run that produced a much-needed 52-48 Senior Night victory Wednesday night in Mabee Arena.
“I think our mindset changed,” Hinz said of the abrupt turnaround. “We knew what we were doing wrong and we realized that we wanted it more than they did. So, we wanted to fight a little bit harder.”
The victory came four days after a disappointing 68-55 loss to Bethany on Saturday in Lindsborg and moved the Coyotes into a tie for fourth with Friends in the KCAC standings at 15-8.
KWU (19-9 overall) closes out the regular season against Friends at 5 p.m. Saturday in Wichita.
“We got down three, called time out and I said ‘there’s their run (9-4), now we’ve got to go on ours,'” KWU coach Ryan Showman said. “We drew up a play for Kelcey then Amanda (Hill) scores. Now instead of down three we’re up one, now we’re in business.”
Showman credited Bethel for battling back in the second half.
“I thought they played very tough defense, they were physical and we didn’t adjust to that very well and so they were able to flip the score,” he said.
Hinz, who led the way with 14 points, 12 rebounds and six blocks, said the Coyotes had no one to blame but themselves for the second half funk.
“I think we were just kind of beating ourselves a little bit,” she said. “We weren’t doing things to our highest level and I think we realized that and we changed it in the fourth quarter.”
KWU won despite shooting just 29 percent (19 of 66) getting outrebounded 52-43 that included 17 Bethel offensive rebounds and led to 19 points.
The Coyotes prevailed by taking care of the ball – something they’ve struggled to do this season (19 per game), including 28 in the loss to Bethany. They committed just nine against Bethel, though.
“That’s what usually does us in but that saved us tonight,” Showman said. “We took care of the ball; we just had more possessions to try and not miss a shot.”
“It’s pretty amazing,” she said of the Senior Night celebration. “It’s a bittersweet feeling that it’s coming to an end but it shows how hard we’ve worked and how much we wanted it.”
Ricks added 13 points and five rebounds and Hill had nine points, eight rebounds and five assists.
Showman said the significance of the victory is enormous.
“Any time you can get a win at home on Senior Night – this game carries so much different energy and emotion – is huge,” he said. “We found a way to win coming off a loss and now it gives us some momentum going on the road and see if we can close this thing out and get to 20 wins. That’s significant for us.
“There’s a lot riding on Saturday but it wouldn’t have mattered if we didn’t win tonight.”
Friends lost to Saint Mary 70-50 Wednesday in Leavenworth and has lost three in a row. The Falcons defeated KWU 73-66 January 10 in Mabee Arena.