STERLING – Kansas Wesleyan women’s coach Ryan Showman paused for a moment before answering the question: what are your thoughts on Kelcey Hinz’s performance?
Showman tilted his head and briefly stared into the distance while pondering his response.
“We talked about, before the game, that this was an opportunity to be extraordinary,” he said moments after the Coyotes’ wild 80-76 Kansas Conference victory Saturday at the Gleason Center. “And she had an absolutely extraordinary night.”
Hinz, indeed, redefined extraordinary, by any measure. The sophomore center scored 31 points and grabbed a school record 25 rebounds, surpassing the previous mark of 20 by Tierra Baldwin against Southwestern on December 6, 2007.
Hinz was 12 of 19 from the field, buried the lone 3-pointer she shot, was 6 of 8 at the foul line and had six offensive rebounds. She had a double-double at halftime – 11 points and 10 rebounds – and was unstoppable, scoring the Coyotes’ first 16 points of the third quarter.
“My momentum was going, my adrenaline was going and I just said ‘shoot it,’ ” Hinz said. “I just wanted my team to win and what was best for them.”
Hinz she and her teammates were ready to play.
“We had the passion, we had the drive,” she said. “They had everything to lose because they were in first place and we wanted it more than they did.
“It was all about taking care of our side of the ball and taking care of our teammates and our players and then executing on our side.”
Hinz was part of KWU’s terrific trio along with Courtney Heinen, who scored 24 points, and Amanda Hill, who had 20 – the threesome combining for 75 of the 80 points. Heinen and Hill had three 3-pointers apiece.
The victory, the Coyotes 11th in a row in conference play, moved them into sole possession of first place in the KCAC at 11-2, half a game ahead of Sterling, which fell to 11-3.
Sterling pummeled the Coyotes 95-67 in the first meeting November 16 in Salina, but it was a wholly different KWU team that played at the Gleason Center.
“The first time we played they just took it to us,” Showman said. “We were a team that was looking for an identity, we had some new players, we had some people from last year playing some different roles, we were trying to learn a new defense and it wasn’t good enough to beat a good team in the fifth game of the year.
“I think what you’ve seen since that first game to now is the growth of a team, the confidence … it’s incredible to watch. As a coach who’s been around for a little bit, watching this team grow and play for each other over the course of the last six weeks is one of the most incredible things I’ve witnessed in my career.”
The Coyotes pulled away in the second quarter after trailing 14-13 at the end of the first quarter. They tallied the first 10 points and last seven points en route to outscoring the Warriors 27-11 and took a 40-25 lead into the locker room at halftime.
Hinz’s third quarter blitz extended the lead to 56-36 with just over three minutes left, but Sterling wasn’t ready to concede.
The Warriors scored 10 of the final 13 points of third quarter, opened the fourth quarter with a 21-12 surge to get within 71-70 with 2:56 remaining and trailed 74-73 with 1:14 left.
That’s when the Coyotes stomped on the brakes. Heinen completed a clutch 3-point play on the next possession, giving KWU a 77-73 lead with 45.8 seconds left. Emmiley Hendrixson scored for Sterling with 34.6 seconds left to make it 77-75, but Haleigh Bradford answered with two free throws with 27.5 seconds remaining for a 79-75 lead.
Sterling’s Jessica Carrillo missed a shot and Hinz made it 80-75 by making one of two free throws with 21.5 seconds left. Hendrixson’s free throw with 1.2 seconds left was the game’s final point.
“Very nervous, my stomach was in a knot,” Hinz said of Sterling’s late rally. “But I trusted my teammates and we knew we had this. We wanted to keep our composure and fight through it all. We’ve had to fight for everything we’ve gotten, nothing has been handed to us.”
“They wanted this game, there was a focus in practice this week unlike anything I’ve seen,” Showman said.
The Coyotes shot 46.8 percent (29 of 62), were 7 of 18 from long range and 15 of 18 at the free throw line. They did have 19 turnovers, but won the rebounding battle by a lopsided 45-31 margin.
“Kelcey Hinz owned the boards,” Showman said.
Sterling shot 40.6 percent (28 of 6), was 11 of 26 from beyond the arc and committed nine turnovers.
Bailey Bangert led the Warriors with 19 points that included five 3-pointers. Hendrixson had 15, making four 3-pointers, and Carrillo 13 points.
The Coyotes play three games next week, starting with Tabor at 6 p.m. Monday at Mabee Arena. The Bluejays (10-8 overall, 9-5 KCAC) defeated Wesleyan 54-53 November 20 in Hillsboro in their first meeting. They trounced McPherson 82-51 Saturday in Hillsboro.