Trailing by nine with 12:11 remaining in the first half, the Kansas Wesleyan men’s basketball team turned to its defense.
The Coyotes closed the opening half on a 20-3 explosion, propelling them to an 80-64 victory over the Saint Mary Spires on Wednesday. With the win, Wesleyan matched its KCAC win total from 2016-17 while jumping in a five-way tie for third with seven games left.
St. Mary jumped out to a fast start, in hopes on snapping a four-game losing streak on the road in the KCAC. The Spires built an 8-1 lead and ballooned the margin to nine with 12:11 to go. The Coyotes locked up the Spires, holding them to one field goal the rest of the way to grab a 36-28 advantage at the half.
The Spires cut the deficit to eight, 52-44, but Wesleyan senior Terell Gandy drilled a triple to make it a double-digit game again around the 10-minute mark.
Wesleyan’s defense stonewalled St. Mary’s three-point game, holding the Spires to 6-of-21 from deep with just two assists. Gandy matched a season-high of 18 points to pace the Coyotes. Junior Rashun Allen added 13 and junior Ernest Carter, the Salina Ortho Player of the Game, recorded 11 points, nine rebounds and three blocks off the bench.
Junior big man Ithello Cross chipped in 11 points and seven rebounds for the Coyotes, who improved to 11-10 overall, 9-6 in the conference. Wesleyan welcomes Bethel on Saturday with pregame coverage of the doubleheader starting at 4:45 on FM 104.9.
SAINT MARY 69, KANSAS WESLEYAN 68 in OT
For the second straight game, Wesleyan notched a quality start. The Coyotes jumped out to a 9-2 cushion, holding St. Mary to just one field goal past the midway point of the opening quarter. The Spires answered, outscoring the Coyotes 13-2, taking a 15-11 advantage into the second period.
The Spire lead grew to six, but the Coyotes only trailed 23-19 at the break, despite 14 turnovers and one more rebound than St. Mary. St. Mary threatened to go up by double-digits, ballooning the cushion to nine, 32-23, with 3:44 to play in the third period. Wesleyan charged back, finishing off the 9-2 spurt with a drive and dish by freshman Mackenzie Herman to senior Taryn Frazier, nipping the deficit to 34-32 after three.
Kansas Wesleyan received some help with 4:59 left in the game. SM junior Tiani White collided with Frazier on the floor. Both stood up and traded words. Shortly after, White was whistled for a technical foul, allowing KWU junior Sydney Mortensen to connect on one-of-two free throws. Shortly later, the Coyotes grabbed their first lead since late in the first, 46-45 with 4:20 to go.
St. Mary reclaimed the upperhand and pushed the lead to three, setting up a game-tying trey by Wesleyan sophomore Courtney Heinen with 27.7 seconds remaining. Following a missed bucket by the Spires with 2.7 seconds left, Wesleyan used a timeout to give Mortensen a clean look, but the last-second heave was a bit strong off the glass.
Heinen had another monster shot to allow the Coyotes to go ahead 65-61 in overtime. Later in the extra period, sophomore Haleigh Bradford barreled to the rim, getting fouled with around four seconds to play. She made the first, but misfired on the second, allowing the ball to pinball after the rim. Bradford tried to follow and ended up fouling St. Mary sophomore Rachel Newquist, putting the Fort Scott CC transfer at the line, her team behind 68-67 with 2.1 seconds on the clock. Newquist swished both tries, giving St. Mary the win.
Senior Mariah Knox and Heinen each finished with 13 points off the bench. Frazier finished with a career-high 12 points to go with eight rebounds, giving her Salina Ortho Player of the Game. KWU outrebounded St. Mary 51-35 with 21 second chance points, but the Coyotes had 25 turnovers.
Kansas Wesleyan (12-11, 9-6) turns to Bethel on Saturday.