Ozuna’s late heroics send Coyotes past Evangel 81-72 in KCAC Quarterfinals

Women’s Basketball | Box Score
The smallest player on the court made the biggest impact and as a result the Kansas Wesleyan women’s basketball season is still alive.Odessa Ozuna, a 5-foot-3 freshman point guard, scored 12 of her 16 points the final 5½ minutes of the game and propelled the Coyotes to an 81-72 come-from-behind victory over Evangel in a quarterfinal game of the Kansas Conference Tournament on Wednesday night inside Mabee Arena.The fourth-seeded Coyotes (17-12) move on to the semifinals and a game against top-seeded Tabor at 2 p.m. Saturday in Hillsboro. The Bluejays (25-4) routed eighth-seeded Bethel 67-39 in their quarterfinal contest Wednesday in Hillsboro.Tied at 64-64 Ozuna scored on a layup, was fouled, and made the free throw with 5:30 left in the game. Clinging to a 70-68 lead she went back to work in astounding fashion burying back-to-back 3-pointers that extended the Coyotes’ lead to 76-68 with 2:01 remaining.Evangel’s Carson Dillard made a 3-pointer to trim the lead to 76-71 but Ozuna answered with three free throws with 1:12 left after she was fouled on a 3-point attempt. Fifth-seeded Evangel (16-10) got no closer than seven (79-72) the rest of the way.It was KWU’s third victory of the season over the Valor which completed their first season as a member of the KCAC.“Part of it is having confidence in myself and the other part of it is my teammates having confidence in me,” Ozuna said. “I’ve missed shots, I’ve had bad plays and they’re just right there, they’re in my ear, giving me a high five. They’re like ‘hey you’re good, you’re good, next play, next play.’“That’s really a tribute to who I’m on the floor with and how good my teammates are at encouraging us.”The Coyotes trailed 57-55 after three quarters and were down 62-55 with 8:40 left in the game before embarking on the comeback. Freshman Brooke Strine started it with six consecutive points. Jill Stephens’ 3-pointer with 6:16 left tied the game at 64 and set the table for Ozuna’s heroics.“We’ve seen her make those plays in big games and in situations in the fourth quarter where we were looking for something,” KWU coach Ryan Showman said of Ozuna. “We had a stretch late third, early fourth quarter where we couldn’t get anything going – bad possessions, poor execution.“They were up seven, we called time and said ‘now it’s our run’ and I feel like we took over from there. The icing on the cake was Ozuna hitting some big, big threes, making some free throws. Just such a great team win.”Ozuna played soccer, a sport where her size was not as much of a factor but found ways to survive and thrive in basketball. She surpassed the 2,000-point plateau during her career at Nolan Catholic High School in Fort Worth.After Wednesday’s game Ozuna is averaging 7.1 points and is shooting 42 percent from the field, 41 percent from long distance in her first collegiate season.“I got away with a little bit of a height disadvantage (in soccer),” she said. “In basketball I just try to play to my strengths – my speed, being quick, stuff like that. I try to take full advantage of that because I know height is not in my favor.”Daijane AdamsLaMyah Ricks and Stephens scored 11 apiece. The Coyotes shot 43.6 percent (24 of 55) and were 11 of 23 from beyond the 3-point line. They have made 28 3-pointers in their last two games – 10 in the fourth quarter against York last Saturday.“When you’re bought in on something and you want something so bad nothing’s going to take it from you, that’s what you saw in that fourth quarter,” Showman said. “We knew how close we were, we weren’t going to let it slip.”“I think shows how truly connected we are,” Ozuna said of the Coyotes’ fourth quarter success. “We feed off each other and we know how to make those big plays.”Dillard led Evangel with 28 points while freshman center Kamie Jenkins had 20 points and 13 rebounds. The Valor shot 38 percent (27 of 71) including 5 of 16 from deep.“We didn’t do much to slow (Dillard and Jenkins) down but what we did do was a really great job on everyone else,” Showman said. “Nobody had a breakout game.”KWU returns to Hillsboro just 11 days after losing to Tabor 86-38. The Bluejays won 77-61 in Salina in early January.“That team was so excited when I told them we’re going back to Hillsboro on Saturday,” Showman said. “They want another shot. We didn’t give our best effort; we were not very good last week. We had a feeling it would run through them and here we are.”