Women’s basketball wins sixth straight

Story by Jim Joyner, Sports Editor

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The women’s basketball team defeated Avila 61-39 on Thursday and Evangel 59-52 on Saturday. Baker has won six consecutive games and owns sole possession of third place in the Heart of America Athletic Conference. The Wildcats are now 18-8 overall and 11-5 in conference games.

“The best thing about where we are right now is we’re playing really good defense,” head coach Ben Lister said. “We’ve been giving up an average of 52 points per game during our winning streak and we’ve held the last three teams to 47 per game.”

Baker started the week off in Kansas City playing the last-place Avila Eagles. When the teams last met on Jan. 15, Baker dominated in a 66-45 win and the defense forced 25 Avila turnovers.

On Thursday, Baker struggled initially and went down 7-0 in the first four minutes. But after that the Wildcats took over the first half and went into the locker room up 29-25 after a few late baskets from Avila’s senior Rebekah Capeder, the conference’s leading scorer. Baker struggled from the free-throw line in the first half, shooting 2-13.

The second half was all Baker. The Eagles did not score for the first 10 minutes of the half and Baker took advantage. Senior Kyrstie Ehm finished with 12 points before exiting the game with an injured nose in the final three minutes. Ehm received an elbow to the face after getting her shot rejected in the lane. Avila’s Capeder was issued a flagrant one foul for the elbow into Ehm’s face.

Freshman Caitlin Modesett also played a great game, scoring 9 points on 3-6 from the field, 1-2 from downtown and 2-2 at the line. Junior Ericka Simpson scored 7 points and dished out 4 assists in her 25 minutes.

Even with the Wildcats shooting a rough 3-21 from three and 36 percent from the field they were still able to dominate Avila defensively. Baker held the Eagles to 18 percent from the field and 0-7 from three in the second half. Baker won its fifth consecutive game in dominating fashion.

Baker’s second game of the week came with another struggling team, the Evangel Crusaders. Evangel has lost four starters over the season and only suited up 10 players.

As with Thursday, Baker started the game sluggish, trailing 18-11 at the halfway point of the first half. Evangel received most of its help from reigning HAAC Freshman of the Year Allison Swanson, who scored the team’s first seven points. Fellow sophomore Reggine Brown scored Evangel’s next seven points.

But at halftime Baker led 29-23 over the Crusaders. Sophomore Kelsey Larson scored all 10 of her points in the game in the first 20 minutes.

Wallisch also scored all of her points in the game in the first half; she would finish with 7 points, 10 rebounds and 2 blocks. This was coming after a game of 4 points, 9 rebounds, and 7 blocks on Thursday at Avila.

“Very pleased with her effort, very pleased with her intensity,” Lister said about Wallisch. “I thought she battled really well and I think she also had some unfortunate calls early that maybe kept her from playing even more aggressive.”

Baker never trailed in the second half but Evangel kept the game close. The Crusaders cut the lead to just four points with five minutes to play, but Baker finished this game out at the free-throw line.

Ericka Simpson played another great game at the point guard spot with 8 points, 3 assists and a steal. Senior Avery Vogts played her best game of the season with 8 points on 2-3 from downtown and a basket up underneath the backboard.

“It was nice to see some threes go in for Avery and Ericka,” Lister said. “They’ve been struggling shooting the three, along with some our other kids who are really good three point shooters, so maybe that loosens us up a little bit.”

And even with an injured nose, Ehm finished with 9 points in a gutsy effort, defensively and offensively.

“I’m certainly pleased with where we are sitting right now based on where we were a few weeks ago when we were 2-3 in the conference and nowhere near the top,” Lister said.

Culver-Stockton lost to Peru State 60-56 on Saturday so Baker currently sits in third place in the HAAC. If the Wildcats hold that position, they would host the sixth seed in the HAAC tournament starting on March 4.

“This time of the year every game is critical,” Lister said. “To be alone in third place, that will give us separation in the voting when the new polls come out.”

The Wildcats play two more games in the regular season starting with on the road at the 9-18, 5-11 Peru State Bobcats on Thursday at 5:30 p.m. Baker beat PSU 88-70 on Jan. 22 in Baldwin City.

Baker’s final regular season game will be at home against the 12-13, 8-8 Missouri Valley Vikings on Saturday at 2 p.m. at the Collins Center. It will be senior day for five Wildcats including Kyrstie Ehm, Haleigh Tenpenny, Rashida Simpson, Angel Woods and Avery Vogts. The Wildcats look to redeem a 69-66 loss to MVC.