The Baker Orange

Women fall to OBU in NAIA Tournament

Story by Jim Joyner, Sports Editor

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What looked like one of the most improbable comebacks in Baker’s history ended when Oklahoma Baptist University senior Elisabeth Daniels knocked down two free throws with 12 seconds left to seal OBU’s 52-47 win and eliminate the Wildcats in the first round of the NAIA Tournament Thursday in Independence, Missouri. The Wildcats finished with a record of 21-10.

Baker trailed No. 6 OBU 46-28 with eight minutes left in the game and all hope for the Wildcats seemed to have vacated the Independence Events Center. But freshman Caitlin Modesett knocked down two free throws to help ignite a Baker rally and later hit a three-pointer to cut the score to 48-41 with three minutes to play.

Two-time HAAC Defensive Player of the Year junior Macy Wallisch hit a jumper and then was fouled in the backcourt on a subsequent possession, knocking down two free throws with 20 seconds remaining to cut the lead to 50-47.

The Bison then missed their second consecutive front end of the bonus and junior Ericka Simpson drove the length of the floor to the basket with 12 seconds remaining with the possibility of tying the game or cutting the lead to one. The ball slipped out of Simpson’s hand, however, and landed out of bounds.

Ultimately, the Wildcats could not overcome an 18-point deficit or their 21 percent shooting percentage from the field and 12 percent from the 3-point line.

Head coach Ben Lister said that he doesn’t like moral victories and doesn’t use them as excuses, but he did say that he was incredibly proud of how well his team fought back in the second half.

Baker kept it close in the first half and only trailed 26-17 at halftime despite shooting 19 percent from the field. Modesett was the leading scorer for Baker at the break with 5 points.

“They made us uncomfortable in the first half, and we panicked,” Lister said.

The Bison jumped out ahead by 18 with less than 10 minutes left, but Baker’s tough defensive pressure forced OBU to turn the ball over on five consecutive possessions down the stretch.

Baker shot 3-25 from beyond the arc, and Modesett made all three. She finished with a team-high 14 points on 4-11 from the field.

“She hit some huge shots,” Lister said of Modesett. “She wasn’t afraid of the moment.”

Junior Jami Hodge also kept Baker in the game early and down the stretch, scoring 8 points and grabbing 5 rebounds. Senior Kyrstie Ehm scored a season-low 6 points in the game on 2-11 from the field with 7 rebounds.

“Kyrstie didn’t have her best game, but I think we had a lot of other kids step up,” Lister said.

This was Ehm’s final game as a Wildcat along with fellow seniors Avery Vogts, Angel Woods, Haleigh Tenpenny and Rashida Simpson. These seniors were the heart and soul of the team, according to Lister, and he noted that they were a part of a huge shift in the program in their four seasons.

“We wouldn’t be here without these seniors,” Lister said.

Wallisch proved her defensive accolades at the national level on Thursday. She finished with 8 points, a season-high 15 rebounds and 6 blocks. Wallisch was dominant down the stretch against a smaller Bison roster.

“They had no answer for her inside,” Lister said.

OBU senior Charity Fowler, the Sooner Athletic Conference’s Co-Defensive Player of the Year and a first-team all-conference performer, kept the Bison calm down the stretch with 5 steals. Baker limited Fowler to 10 points on only 8 shots.

The Wildcats scored a season-low 47 points but also limited Oklahoma Baptist to a season-low 52 points. OBU averages 78 points per game.

Baker sophomore Kelsey Larson scored 4 points after not scoring at Benedictine in the HAAC semifinals. Simpson scored 3 points with 2 rebounds. Woods finished with 4 points in her 21 minutes.

The Wildcats finished the season winning 9 of their last 11 and placed third in the HAAC regular-season and in the conference tournament. Baker returns all starters except for Ehm and next year will try to make it three consecutive trips to the NAIA national tournament.

“Now we’ve got to be that team that’s capable of beating any team in the country,” Lister said.

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