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No. 13 women fall in Heart semifinal rematch

Story by Jim Joyner, Sports Editor

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After winning their Heart of America Athletic Conference opener at Clarke, the No. 13 Baker women dropped their first game of the season at No. 15 Central Methodist. The Wildcats lost 69-66 and fell to 3-1 overall.

Baker held on for its 74-70 win at Clarke as the Wildcats were on the road for the fourth-straight game. This was Baker’s first trip to Central Methodist since beating CMU 64-59 in last season’s Heart tournament semifinal. Central Methodist was picked to finish second in the Heart after winning the last year’s regular season title.

The Wildcats took control of the game in the opening minutes with two 3-pointers from senior Kelsey Larson and one from sophomore Jesse Zweifel. The reigning Heart Player of the Year, Dajonee Hale, started the game on the bench, and Baker held Hale to only eight points on the night. The Eagles ended the first quarter on a 7-2 run and led 19-18 at the end of the first quarter.

The first half was dominated by turnovers from both teams. In CMU’s game against William Penn on Saturday, the Eagles turned the ball over 37 times, and that was contagious through the early part of Wednesday’s game. The Wildcats had 10 turnovers in the first 13 minutes of the game, while CMU turned it over seven times.

CMU’s shooting took off in the middle of the second quarter. Freshman Sophie Thompson and reigning Freshman of the Year Lexi Moe made back-to-back 3-pointers to give CMU a 37-21 lead halfway through the second quarter. CMU started the game 4-for-7 from 3-point range and the Eagles had a comfortable lead following their 21-3 run.

At the end of the first half, CMU led Baker 40-21, thanks to 17 first-half turnovers from Baker. The Eagles also shot 50 percent from the field, compared to Baker’s 32 percent.

But the second half was filled with energy for the Wildcats as they immediately started crawling back into the game. Baker made up eight points and trailed 53-42 at the end of the third quarter.

Then Larson and freshman Carrington Ream took over for Baker. Larson scored eight points in the fourth quarter and Ream scored seven points in the final quarter, going 3-for-5 from the floor. Baker cut the lead to single digits and played in a one-possession game for the final three minutes. Baker had three opportunities to tie the game in the final two minutes, but the Wildcats couldn’t get their shots to fall.

With CMU leading 68-66 in the final 10 seconds, the Eagles’ had two free throws to ice the game. But Moe missed the first free throw, leaving the door open for Baker.

The Wildcats inbounded in front of their own bench with 10 seconds to go, down by three, but Baker bobbled the inbounds and slowed down the final play. Larson picked up the loose ball near half court and took three steps and a deep 3-pointer to give Baker a chance to tie the game, but her shot fell short and the Eagles held on for the win.

Larson led Baker in scoring with 19 points, shooting 7-for-11 from the field. Senior Sydney Buchel finished with 13 points and seven rebounds. Ream, who scored her first career points in the game, finished with 11 points, and senior Kenzie Cook scored six points with nine rebounds.

After 17 first half turnovers, the Wildcats only committed eight turnovers in the second half, for a total of 25 turnovers on the night. Baker forced 22 Central Methodist turnovers.

For the first home game of the season, Baker will host the William Penn Statesmen on Saturday at 2 p.m. Baker swept WPU last season, winning 71-46 at home and winning 78-61 in the final game of the regular season in Oskaloosa, Iowa.

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No. 13 women fall in Heart semifinal rematch