The most important possession of the game — and thus, the season — for the Baker University women’s basketball team was a bust for the first 28 seconds.
The Wildcats led Columbia College by a point in the first round of the NAIA Division I women’s basketball tournament and were about to give the ball away.
Jami Hodge gathered the ball after a blocked shot, and fired it out to Kelsey Larson on the wing.
Larson made a dagger of a three-pointer as the shot clock buzzer sounded, the catalyst for an 80-71 victory over Columbia College.
Baker, 25-8, will play Shawnee State (Ohio) at 12:30 p.m. Friday in the second round.
As for the game-changing broken play? Larson, who finished with 19 points, had more fun making the shot than recounting it.
“We just pushed it there, and it was big,” Larson said with a smile. “A big shot.”
Columbia College’s error was losing Larson in the chaos.
“That’s what happens you hustle and make plays and try to keep the ball alive. The kids continued to fight; they didn’t give up on the play,” Baker coach Ben Lister said. “The shot clock was running down, Jami finds her at the right time and we knock down a 3. Kelsey leads the country in 3-point percentage, so leaving that kid open is a mistake, and she made them pay right there.”
The shot sparked a 9-0 run that allowed the Wildcats to pull away after the two teams took turns trading big shots and the lead.
“We played them earlier this season and we were up the whole time until the fourth quarter,” Hodge said. “We kind of let up a little bit and they came back and won in the fourth quarter. We knew we had a little revenge to get and I was glad to help them out to get the ‘W.’”
Hodge, a Spring Hill graduate, did a heck of a lot more than just help. She poured in 30 points, and complemented it with 11 rebounds and three assists.
“That was by far the performance of her career. Jami is one kid who has struggled with big moments at time this year, but she was comfortable, she was relaxed,” Lister said. “She’s been locked in all week in practice. I can tell she was intense and ready to go, and she’s one of those kids if she hits the first couple, she’ll get going.”
Benedictine 55, Mont. State-North. 53, OT
Benedictine frittered away an eight-point lead in the fourth quarter, but rallied to beat Montana State-Northern in overtime.
Benedictine’s Chayla Rutledge hit a shot with 1:06 to play in the fourth quarter that eventually sent the game to overtime. She finished with a game-high 22 points.
Benedictine, 27-6, will play overall top seed Our Lady of the Lake (Texas) at 10:45 a.m Friday in the second round.
▪ Our Lady of the Lake (Texas) raced to an early 18-point lead and cruised to an 82-52 win over William Woods (Mo.).
▪ Bianca Cubello laid-in the game winner with .07 seconds left as The Masters (Calif.) beat Loyola (La.) 59-57.
▪ Lindsey Burd scored 22 points and Emily Fox added 21 as No. 2-seed Campbellsville (Ky.) earned a 75-50 win over No. 7-seed Xavier (La.).
▪ Madison Ridout and ALi Zieverink scored 18 points apiece as No. 2 Shawnee State (Ohio) def. No. 7 Langston (Okla.) (20-8), 77-69.