Women drop back-to-back Heart games

Story by Jim Joyner, Sports Editor

After moving up to No. 21 in the NAIA rankings, the women’s basketball team dropped both of its games this week. The women lost to Central Methodist 81-72 on Wednesday in Fayette, Missouri, and followed that up with a loss to Culver-Stockton on Saturday afternoon in Baldwin City.

The team learned early in the week that it would be without its leading scorer, sophomore Caitlin Modesett, after she suffered a hand injury in practice before Wednesday’s game.

Central Methodist, which entered at 5-0 in Heart of America Athletic Conference play, ended the first quarter on a 9-1 run to lead 26-15. Senior Macy Wallisch picked up two fouls early and was forced to sit for a majority of the first half.

The Wildcats were able to cut the difference in the second quarter to go into the locker room down 41-39. Junior Kelsey Larson was the team’s leading scorer at the break with nine points. Larson missed the entire month of December due to illness and was playing in just her second game since the illness.

After trailing by 10 with 6:45 to play in the third quarter, Baker only trailed 58-56 at the end of the third and carried momentum into the final quarter.

Junior Kenzie Cook tied the game at 65-65 with 5 minutes to play, but the Wildcats would never gain the lead. Central Methodist ended the game on a 13-6 run with CMU’s Alissa Campanero knocking down six out of six free throws. Campanero ranks No. 2 in the NAIA at 94 percent from the stripe.

Larson finished with 13 points, senior Ericka Simpson finished with 11, senior Jami Hodge also had 11, and Cook scored nine and grabbed seven rebounds. Freshman Jess Zweifel and sophomore Courtney Hoag both scored eight.

The loss knocked Baker to 4-2 in the Heart and 10-3 overall. CMU stayed undefeated in Heart play at 6-0.

Saturday the Wildcats welcomed in the Culver-Stockton Wildcats, with both teams sitting at 4-2 in the Heart with both losses coming to MidAmerica Nazarene and Central Methodist.

Culver opened the game on a 6-0 run and Baker responded with an 8-0 run. At the end of the first quarter Baker led 14-13, with Simpson scoring the team’s first six points. In the second quarter Baker extended the lead to as many as nine, but a late basket from Culver sent both teams into the locker room with Baker leading 28-22. Both Larson and Simpson had nine points at the break.

Baker once again pushed its lead to nine points but couldn’t put CSC away. Culver hit two free throws at the end of the third quarter and trailed Baker 43-42.

The fourth quarter was almost all Culver as CSC’s leading scorer Randi Lee Plunkett came out firing. Plunkett nailed a three in the team’s first possession to give CSC a 45-43 lead. With five minutes to play Plunkett broke a tie game with another three ball to put CSC up 56-53. Plunkett made her third three of the quarter with two minutes to play and gave Culver a 10-point lead and enough cushion to earn a win on the road 65-57.

Simpson finished with 19 points, Larson scored 16 with four assists, and Wallisch scored in double digits after coming up empty against CMU.

This is the first time Baker has lost back-to-back games since falling in the Heart semifinals at Benedictine last season and then falling to Oklahoma Baptist in the national tournament. This is the first pair of losses in Heart play since losing to Missouri Valley and MNU in back-to-back games in late January of 2015.

The Wildcats now face their toughest week of conference play with three games in six days, including a quick turnaround with a home game on Monday against William Penn. Then the Wildcats will take the road to Peru, Nebraska, on Thursday and then drive from Peru to Des Moines, Iowa, for Saturday’s game at Grand View.