NORTH NEWTON, Kan. – Clutch free throw shooting in the final 11 seconds allowed the Kansas Wesleyan Coyotes to knock off the upset-minded Bethel Threshers on Friday night at Thresher Gym.
Bethel had trimmed a six-point Coyote lead to one at 67-66 with 2:13 left, but neither team could score for the next two minutes. Easton Hunter (FR/Colwich, Kan.), who made his first career start, hit two charities with 11 seconds left to make it 69-66 and after a Bethel bucket, senior AJ Range (SR/Junction City, Kan.) hit a pair of three throws with four seconds left to seal the win.
A desperation three by Bethel at the buzzer was no good, giving the Coyotes the win.
Bethel took an early 3-0 lead to start the game, but the Coyotes used an 8-1 run capped by a bucket by Range with 17:18 left in the first to take an 8-4 lead. A free throw by Ethan Speer (JR/Salina, Kan.) would later give the Coyotes a 13-8 lead with 12:02 to go in the half.
Bethel tied things at 13, then again at 16 before the Coyotes got four straight on a bucket by Trey Gilbert (JR/Holcomb, Kan.) and another by Range with 8:52 to go in the half.
The Coyotes held a 20-18 lead when Gilbert was fouled on three-point try and converted all three free throws to give KWU a 23-18 lead and Tyus Jeffries (JR/Oklahoma City, Okla.)’ bucket with 7:04 left made it 25-18. A triple by Nate Leach (SR/Houston, Texas) and a free throw by Jeffries gave the Coyotes a game-high nine-point lead at 29-20 with 5:55 to go in the half.
Bethel would press back, tied things with two minutes left in the half, and taking a brief lead at 34-32, before Hunter’s free throws with 1:25 left before recess tied things at 34.
The Coyotes pushed their lead out to nine again at 47-38 on a bucket by Range, but Bethel tied it at 57 with 7:09 to go. Six straight points for the Coyotes gave KWU a 65-59 lead with 4:10 to go before Bethel cut it to a point with 2:13 left.
Range had another monster game for the Coyotes with 20 points and 12 rebounds, while Jeffries had 16 and Gilbert added 13 off the bench for a career high. The Coyotes shot 26-of-53 from the field in the game for 49.1 percent, including shooting 53.8 percent in the second half. KWU enjoyed a 33-29 advantage on rebounds.
The Coyotes will host Oklahoma Wesleyan on Tuesday at 8 p.m. inside Mabee Arena for their next scheduled game.