They had just let a nine-point lead evaporate in the final 2½ minutes of regulation, undone by turnovers and missed free throws, and barely survived when a McPherson player missed a layup at the horn and sent the game into overtime.
So what were the Kansas Wesleyan Coyotes thinking as they took the floor for the extra five minutes?
“We’ve got this,” post player Kelcey Hinz (JR/Whitewater, Kan.) said. “We want it more, we’re here, they’ve got people in foul trouble, we’ve people who can makes the shots – we’re going to go do it.”
And do it they did. KWU scored the first five points of the extra period and pulled away for a hard-fought 87-80 Kansas Conference overtime victory Friday night at Mabee Arena.
Wesleyan improved to 4-3 overall and 3-1 in the KCAC while McPherson fell to 4-1 and 2-1.
The Coyotes won despite committing 29 turnovers and McPherson taking a whopping 91 shots. They did so by shooting 54 percent from the field and winning the rebounding battle 50-39.
KWU trailed 38-36 at halftime and took a 55-53 lead into the fourth quarter in the hotly contested game.
The Coyotes appeared to be in good shape, leading 75-66 after a Hinz 3-point play with 2:54 remaining. McPherson rallied, though, taking advantage of five KWU turnovers and two missed free throws by Hinz. The fifth turnover led to a breakaway by McPherson’s Dy’mond McElrath, who drove to the basket and shot a layup that bounced off the rim as time expired.
“It was definitely a guts game,” Coyote coach Ryan Showman said. “We had a lead late in the fourth quarter and we didn’t make some free throws, we turned it over and McPherson capitalized on it and was able to force overtime.
“When that shot (at the buzzer) rolled off we had new life. There was no change in body language, there was no pouting or anything. The message in the huddle was they spent a lot of energy getting back in the game. I said ‘this is our five minutes, let’s go finish.'”
A basket by Caila Hill (SO/Rossville, Kan.) and a 3-pointer by her older sister Amanda gave KWU an 80-75 lead 1½ minutes into OT. McPherson got within 80-79 with 2:15 left, but the Coyotes outscored the Bulldogs 7-1 the rest of the way. McPherson missed its last six field goal attempts.
The game featured outstanding play from three of the KCAC’s top players – Hinz, teammate Amanda Hill (SR/Rossville, Kan.) and McPherson’s Brittany Roberts. Hinz had 25 points, 15 rebounds, six assists and six blocks, and Hill 27 points and eight rebounds. Roberts led McPherson with 30 points, 15 rebounds, three blocks and six steals.
Hinz and Roberts spent the night pounding on each other in the lane. Hinz was 8 of 16 from the floor and 9 of 17 at the line while Roberts was 13 of 29 and 4 of 6 at the line. McPherson outscored KWU 60-50 in the paint.
“It’s always good to have someone competitive and hard to play with,” Hinz said. “It’s just fun to go at her and then she’d go back at you. … It’s always fun to play against her.”
“Big girl basketball,” Showman said of the Hinz-Roberts duel. “Pound it in … Pound. It. In.”
KWU got a huge boost from Caila Hill off the bench. She finished with a career-best 16 points on 7 of 9 shooting and also had seven rebounds and two assists.
“She picked up our defense, assists, scoring, rebounding,” Hinz said. “She was there to help us on the back side on offense and defense – all the way around. She gave us a game to win.”
“I thought Caila played really well on Tuesday night (at Sterling) and that earned her some more opportunities today,” Showman said. “She was great finishing (shots).”
Gabby Mureeba (SO/Allen, Texas) had another good night as well finishing with 11 points, nine rebounds, three assists and three blocks.
Showman said McPherson’s defense gave his team problems and resulted in the high number of turnovers. The Bulldogs scored 28 points off KWU’s mistakes.
“I’ve got to give a lot of credit to Mac,” he said. “It was a different style we hadn’t seen and it’s hard to mimic that in practice. We knew it was coming. Mentally we were ready, but physically we weren’t and didn’t adjust well at times.
“A team like that you take care of the ball and make your free throws and it’s game over in regulation. But we weren’t able to do that.”
Wesleyan was 32 of 59 from the field, 5 of 13 beyond the arc, and 18 of 28 at the foul line. McPherson shot 38.5 percent (35 of 91), including 2 of 17 from long range, and 8 of 13 at the line.
The Coyotes are home again Tuesday when Oklahoma Wesleyan comes to Mabee Arena for a 6 p.m. conference game. The Eagles, who upset KWU in the quarterfinals of last season’s conference tournament, are 1-3 overall and 0-2 in the KCAC after losing to Bethel 64-60 on Friday night. OKWU also lost to McPherson earlier this week 79-67. Both games were “bump-ups” as the pandemic continues to cause the postponement of many games in the conference.