Kansas Wesleyan forward Amanda Hill (SR/Rossville, Kan.) wasn’t happy with the way she had been as shooting the basketball. So, she did the one thing she knew would remedy the problem.
“Been in the gym with my sister (Caila),” Hill said following the Coyotes’ 74-53 Kansas Conference victory over Ottawa Friday night inside Mabee Arena.
The extra shooting paid huge dividends. Hill scored a career-high 30 points and grabbed 11 rebounds as KWU and improved to 3-2 on the season, 2-0 in the conference. She scored 16 points the first half and 10 in the fourth quarter as the Coyotes pulled away for their third consecutive victory.
“It’s really exciting,” said Hill, who was 13 of 22 from the field, including 4 of 8 from 3-point range and also had five assists. “My shot has definitely been off for a couple of games, so I’m excited that a few of them fell for me.”
She wasn’t alone in her excitement.
“We knew the way Ottawa executed their (2-3) zone defense that she was going to get opportunities in the high post,” KWU coach Ryan Showman said of Hill. “I trust Amanda with so much in this program, I trust her with everything off the court, everything on the court. We wanted to get her the ball and let her go make a play. She was just special tonight.”
Hill has survived and thrived during a rigorous fall semester while playing basketball and keeping up the demands of being a senior in KWU’s nursing program. It isn’t easy, but she has persevered.
“Sometimes I may be a little tired, but I’ve always got my friends to bring energy in practice and get me hyped up,” Hill said. “I try to separate the two. When I’m in nursing I focus on nursing and when I’m in basketball I focus on basketball.”
Hill was dialed in Friday. She scored 10 points the first quarter as KWU took a 23-11 lead into the second quarter. Ottawa, though, charged back with a 12-3 run and trailed 30-27 with 1½ minutes left in the half. Hill scored with 1:09 left and the Coyotes took a 32-27 advantage into the locker room at the break.
Leading 33-29 with under 7 minutes left in the third quarter KWU scored eight straight and led 51-39 entering the final 10 minutes.
The Coyotes quickly pulled away by scoring the first 14 points of the final quarter that was part of a 20-2 run and led 69-41 with just under 5 minutes left.
“(Showman) said defense is pretty much going to win this game,” Hill said of her coach’s halftime message. “We came out and knew we had to get stops and that the offense was going to follow.”
Another key factor was Kelcey Hinz (JR/Whitewater, Kan.). After going scoreless the first half Hinz scored eight the third quarter as KWU looked inside to their All-America post player.
“We got paint touches,” Showman said. “We did a real great job working inside-out. I know we made a lot of 3-pointers (10), but those 3s in the first quarter (five of them) were inside-out after we got it into the paint. We didn’t do that the second quarter.”
Hinz finished with another double-double – 12 points and 15 rebounds – and also had four blocks and two assists. Point guard Gabby Mureeba (SO/Allen, Texas) continued her strong play with 11 points, four rebounds and two assists.
Wesleyan was 10 of 21 beyond the arch for the game. Mia Needles (JR/Highland Ranch, Colo.) hit three treys and the perimeter scoring helped ease the pressure on Hinz inside.
“With everyone keying on Amanda and Kelcey early we knew we had to hit some shots,” Showman said. “They started spreading out because you’ve got to come guard us and that opened everything else up.
“We can’t win with just two people and we know that. They’re going to be a big part of our success, Kelcey and Amanda, but we need others to step up and I think five games in our success – we’ve won three in a row – is coming from other people settling into roles, people getting comfortable, getting more confident.”
KWU shot 50 percent for the game (30 of 60), outscored Ottawa 40-26 in the paint and won the rebounding battle 41-37. The Braves shot just 26.2 percent (21 of 71) from the field.
“I tell my girls every day we’re going to have opportunities to score enough points to win,” Showman said. “This is high level defense right now, five games in, and it’s going to be important for us as we get into the semester.”
The Coyotes have a huge game Tuesday when they play preseason conference favorite Sterling at 6 p.m. in Sterling. The Warriors are 3-0, but haven’t played a conference game. They defeated Northwestern (Iowa) 78-71 Friday in Orange City, Iowa, and play Dordt on Saturday.