Fortunately for the Kansas Wesleyan Coyotes, Jayme Sloan (SR/Bennington, Kan.) might have been the only person in Mabee Arena not on the verge of cardiac arrest.
Sloan, a reserve guard, calmly buried a dramatic 3-point shot while being fouled with 2.6 seconds left in the Coyotes’ game Thursday night against Friends.
The incredible four-point play capped a frantic fourth-quarter rally, resurrecting the Coyotes from the ranks of the dearly departed and propelling them to a virtually impossible 60-56 Kansas Conference victory.
KWU maintained its paper-thin hold on first place with the victory and improved to 17-4 overall and 13-2 in the conference. It was the Coyotes 13th consecutive KCAC victory and 13th their last 14 games overall.
For Sloan, it was basically another night at the office.
“I asked before if I was suppose to drive or to shoot and they said whatever you feel and I felt like I was open enough to shoot, so I shot it,” Sloan said matter-of-factly, having quickly changed into her cheer uniform in preparation for her next task in the upcoming men’s contest.
KWU entered the fourth quarter facing a 10-point (50-40) deficit after trailing by as many as 15 (42-27) with 6:00 left in the third quarter – befuddled by Friends’ quickness and athleticism.
The Falcons (10-12, 7-9 KCAC) took a 52-44 lead with 7½ minutes left. Sloan’s first 3-pointer of the game, with 2:52 left, made it 52-49 and a Haleigh Bradford (SR/Schertz, Texas) basket cut the deficit to 52-51 with 1:49 remaining.
KWU finally drew even, 54-54, on two Amanda Hill (JR/Rossville, Kan.) free throws with 1:07 left. After Friends missed its sixth consecutive shot, two more Hill free throws gave the Coyotes their first lead since midway through the second quarter, 56-54, with 28.1 seconds showing on the scoreboard clock.
Friends pulled even on a Naria Hall field goal with 14.7 seconds left, prompting KWU to call time out to set up a final play.
“I took my time, I didn’t let the time speed me up,” Sloan said. “I took a breath and I looked at what the defense gave me. They were expecting me to drive since it was tied, so I just let it go.”
Sloan was mobbed by her teammates after the shot, and after a Friends’ time out, calmly made the free throw for the game’s final point.
“I’d like to say that’s exactly how we drew it up, but that’s the thing with our team” KWU coach Ryan Showman said. “We’ve got a first option and when that breaks down, we’ve got second option. When that breaks down it’s ‘go make a play,’ and Jayme Sloan was there and she made a play.”
Undoubtedly the biggest play of the season to date.
The Coyotes struggled to score, rebound and handle the ball until the final 10 minutes. They shot 34 percent for the game (21 of 62), were outscored 34-18 in the paint by the smaller Falcons, missed 10 of 21 free throw attempts, were outrebounded 45-31 and had 17 turnovers – just one the fourth quarter, though.
“They did some things defensively we hadn’t seen before and it took us a long time to adjust to that,” Showman said. “We just made enough shots when we needed to … man, I don’t know, that was a gritty win.”
“They really took away our inside game, which really put us at a loss on what to do on the offensive end,” Sloan said. “That kind of got us flustered and sped up.”
Hill had another huge game, finishing with 16 points and six rebounds – both team highs – while Courtney Heinen (SR/Axtell, Kan.) scored 11 before fouling out with 7:02 left in the game. Sloan and Bradford scored eight apiece.
The Coyotes prevailed by forcing 24 Friends turnovers and going 6 for 6 at the foul line the final 1:07. They outscored the Falcons 20-6 in the fourth quarter.
Friends shot 42 percent (23 of 55) and was 10 of 12 at the foul line.
Like good teams typically do, the Coyotes found a way to win on a night when almost everything went awry.
“We played as a team and fought like heck to come back,” Sloan said. “We just said ‘one play at a time, we’ve got to get a stop and then we’ve got to score.’ It all starts on the defensive end, we had to get stops to be able to go down and make good plays on the offensive end.”
Khadijah Kelly led Friends with 18 points on 9 of 15 shooting and Naria Hall scored 14. Hall, though, scored two and Kelly was scoreless the final 10 minutes.
The Coyotes face another challenge Saturday when they play rival Bethany. Tip-off is 5 p.m. in Hahn Gymnasium in Lindsborg.
The Swedes (12-4, 15-6 overall) defeated Ottawa 65-56 Thursday in Ottawa and have won nine of their last 10 games. KWU defeated Bethany 79-52 on November 26, in Mabee Arena.