The Baker University women’s basketball team was seconds away from its sixth win of the season Saturday, but fell short in overtime to Evangel University 84-77.
The game started in favor of the Crusaders as they soared to an early 11-1 lead over the Wildcats.
Along with trying to slow down Sierra McSpadden, who led the Crusader charge, Baker head coach Ben Lister was looking for a big defensive effort to slow Evangel’s guard tandem of Kara Blankenship and Emily Akins. He turned to freshman Kyra Ramsey to accept the challenge.
“She’s got natural instincts to be a good defender,” Lister said. “She doesn’t get beat a lot and she’s pretty good at taking away what a player is good at. She’s just relentless.”
Ramsey rotated throughout the game defending the two players, holding the pair at 12 points each.
“I just know that I have to stop their best player if we want to have any chance of winning,” Ramsey said. “As long as I do my job and stop the best player, I feel like we have a better chance of winning.”
The Wildcats fought back from the 10-point deficit and went into halftime leading by two points, 34-32. The second half was a completely different ballgame for Baker, as the team dashed out to a 47-37 lead with 13:45 left to play.
The second half spark was supplemented by senior Gloria Atanmo, who had 15 second-half points, along with junior Alisha Fanshier’s 12 points.
With 17 seconds remaining, the Wildcats held a five-point lead before an inbound pass was intercepted by Evangel and complimented by a 3-pointer. The next trip down the court, the Wildcats were holding closely to a two-point lead when Akins was fouled. She converted both free throws and sent the game into overtime.
It was all Evangel in overtime, as McSpadden took over for the Crusaders and shot her way to 29 points.
Baker’s Shelbi Petty scored 24 points while connecting on five of seven from 3-point range.
Petty has stepped up and become an offensive threat for the Wildcats. In 11 conference games, she has scored in double figures eight times, and she leads the NAIA in 3-point percentage.
“When she puts the ball up from three, I think we all kind of expect that she is going to make it,” Lister said. “Most of the time when she is taking that shot it is a high percentage shot.”
Petty believes that the team’s chemistry and rising talent has improved her individual game.
“I think our team is just playing a lot better,” Petty said. “We’re becoming more confident in each other’s abilities and we are becoming more united as a team and I think that really helps.”
Baker is 5-19 overall and 3-9 in conference play as of Wednesday. The Wildcats will continue their conference schedule with Peru State College tonight in Collins Center.