Kayla Kivinski didn’t play in Kansas Wesleyan’s seven previous basketball games against Friends – all of them losses.
She sat out last season and was a member of the Missouri Southern State basketball team prior to that.
Kivinski, though, played a pivotal role in helping the Coyotes end their long losing streak against the Falcons on Wednesday night. The senior forward from Port Richey, Fla., scored 13 of her 20 points in the fourth quarter as KWU held on for an 89-84 Kansas Conference victory at Garvey Gymnasium.
The victory was the sixth in a row for Wesleyan, which improved to 9-4 overall and 7-1 in the KCAC. Friends, which saw its four-game winning streak end, fell to 6-7 and 6-3.
The Falcons entered the game having won 49 of their previous 54 KCAC contests.
Kivinski was 7 of 8 from the field (2 of 3 from 3-point range), 4 of 4 at the foul line and also had six rebounds and four assists.
Leading 65-57 after three quarters, Friends opened the fourth quarter with a 12-6 surge and trailed 71-69 following a basket by Laramie Edens with 4:07 left in the game.
Haleigh Bradford made two free throws for KWU, making it 73-69 with 3:45 remaining. Kivinski took over from there, scoring seven consecutive points – the biggest shot a long and hurried 3-pointer as the shot clock was expiring with 2:05 left that gave the Coyotes a 78-71 lead.
Her last basket at the 1:13 mark gave Wesleyan an 82-75 advantage and she helped slam the door on the Falcons, making all four of her free throws the final 31 seconds.
“That’s what Kayla Kivinski does, she comes up with plays, she comes up with buckets,” KWU coach Ryan Showman said. “When we need a basket we find her and she attacks. We had conversations with her several weeks ago about being aggressive and being that person to take that shot. And boy, she stepped up and did it.
“She’s just a very heady player, she’s very methodical, she’s been around the game, she’s played at a very high level in the MIAA and she’s understanding more and more how to be successful in our offense.”
Wesleyan dominated the rebounding battle, winning 53-33 with 20 on the offensive end. Gabbie Miller led the way with nine rebounds and Virja Lewis had eight.
That helped the Coyotes overcome 21 turnovers that led to 23 Falcons points. Opposing teams were averaging 25 turnovers against Friends’ pressure defense this season.
Four other Coyotes joined Kivinsk in double figure scoring. Bradford had 15 points to go along with four rebounds and four assists; Miller 12 points, six assists and four steals; Courtney Heinen 12 points and three rebounds off the bench; and Sydney Mortensen 11 points, four assists and two blocks.
“Proud of my group,” Showman said. “They played so hard. I told them ‘guys, we don’t have to play perfect for 40 minutes, but we have to play hard and we have to compete.’
“If it wasn’t 40 minutes it was darn close. They battled their butts off and got this win.”
Friends was led by Khadijah Kelly’s 20 points, 14 coming in the first half. Aryanna Brown had 18 and Edens 17 and 11 rebounds.
Wesleyan shot 44.3 percent (31 of 70) and Friends 47.8 percent (32 of 67). The Coyotes had 23 assists on their 31 field goals.
KWU led 29-19 after the first quarter and had a 40-27 lead with 4:11 left in the half before Friends closed on a 16-5 run and trailed 45-43 at the break. The Coyotes committed 10 turnovers during the second quarter, five during the final 3 minutes.
They regained control by outscoring Friends 13-6 the first 5 ½ minutes of the third period for a 58-49 lead.
Wesleyan plays Bethel at 5 p.m. Saturday at Mabee Arena in its final game before the holiday break. The Threshers (10-3, 5-3 KCAC) lost to Ottawa 67-57 in overtime Wednesday in North Newton.
(RV) Friends 90, Kansas Wesleyan 63
One of the best KCAC offenses trumped the conference’s best defense as Friends jumped out to a 16-6 advantage. Kansas Wesleyan battled back to within three twice, but the Falcons were too much to overcome.
Friends (8-4, 6-3 KCAC) was a scorching 67 percent in the first half from the field. The Falcons settled for 52 percent for the game while going 13-of-30 from beyond the arc. Jordan Murdock led three double-digit scorers with 24 points. James “Papi” Conley added 19 while Atir Cherne made four triples for 17 points.
The Coyotes (6-5, 4-4) saw their three-game win streak come to an end with junior James Brooks pouring in 18 points on 6-of-12 shooting. Sophomore AJ Range was a perfect 5-for-5 with 11 points.