The Baker Orange

Women improve to 6-5 in HAAC

Story by Jim Joyner, Sports Editor

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After a 70-63 loss to the MidAmerica Nazarene Pioneers on Thursday in the Collins Center the women’s basketball team overcame a 1-17 game from three-point range to defeat the Central Methodist Eagles 63-54 on Saturday in Fayette, Missouri. The Wildcats improved to 13-8, 6-5 after dropping two games in a row.

The 70-63 loss on Thursday to MNU dropped the Wildcats to 5-5 on the year.

Reigning Heart of America Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year junior Macy Wallisch did not score against the Pioneers on 0-2 from the field and in only 10 minutes of playing time. But Wallisch came back Saturday and had what head coach Ben Lister called “her most complete game of the year.”

“We were really happy for her,” junior Ericka Simpson said. “I think she’s been struggling a little bit but she felt good after today’s game and we were all really happy for her. She pulled through for us.”

Wallisch was a perfect 4-4 shooting, 5-5 from the free throw line, scored 13 points, grabbed 10 boards and rejected 4 shots. She played for nearly the entire duration of the second half and was a wrecking force in the Baker defense, which gave up only 18 second half points.

“Those are the kinds of numbers that we felt like Macy was capable of giving us on a nightly basis,” Lister said. “For the first time in a long time Macy was not only healthy physically but mentally she was here.”

While Wallisch played one of her best games, the Baker three-point shooters, who came in No. 26 in the NAIA at 33 percent, started the game 0-16 from beyond the arc. But finally with 4:55 seconds to play, freshman Ebony Parker scored the team’s first three pointer of the game. Parker finished with 6 points and 5 rebounds.

The Wildcats forced 18 Central Methodist turnovers. Ericka Simpson believed this was a big reason why the team was able to win.

“Our coach always tells us its going to come down to stops and creating turnovers,” Ericka Simpson said. “First half we didn’t do so well and that’s why were down. But when we came out that’s all we were focused on.”

Senior Kyrstie Ehm was the only other Wildcat in double figures with 10 points on 4-12 shooting. Ehm scored 7 points on 3-13 shooting on Thursday against MNU. Ericka Simpson scored 9 points after scoring only 3 against the Pioneers. Simpson was 4-9 shooting.

The Wildcats finally pulled ahead with eight minutes left after trailing for nearly the entire first half. The Wildcats would maintain a 5-7 point lead throughout the final minutes and would nail some key free throws after back-to-back horrible games from the line. Baker finished 16-25 at the line after going 20-44 in the past two games.

“We did some really solid things defensively in the second half and it starts with locking down their best player,” Lister said. “If we show up and guard like that in the first half I’m not sure that it’s a nine point game, it might’ve been a 20-point win.”

Sophomore Mackenzie Cook kept her strong defensive and offensive play from Thursday night rolling into Saturday’s game. Cook scored a career high 14 points and grabbed 8 rebounds on Thursday. Cook scored 6 points on Saturday in only 11 minutes on the floor and provided tough defense on Central Methodist’s junior Taylor Cornellison. Cornellison, who averages 13 points per game, was limited to only 9 on a 4-12 shooting game.

Sophomore Kelsey Larson scored 7 points in Saturday’s game after 13 on Thursday. Larson has been big on the glass as well with 9 rebounds against the Eagles. Since Kelsey Larson became a starter she is averaging almost 9 points per game.

The 13-8, 5-5 Wildcats have seven days between games before meeting the 6-13, 3-8 Graceland Yellow Jackets in the Collins Center on Feb. 7. The last time the teams met Baker won 65-56 in Lamoni, Iowa.

“Graceland is a very good offensive team,” Lister said. “They’re one of the harder matchups in our league because they don’t play a true five.”

The fifth place Wildcats will tip off at 2 p.m. on Saturday afternoon. Every win from here on out will be vital come the conference tournament.

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