Baker women win at Culver-Stockton

Story by Jim Joyner, Sports Editor

The Baker women avenged a previous loss to Culver-Stockton College on Jan. 9 with a 61-43 victory over CSC on Saturday afternoon in Canton, Missouri. Culver’s inefficiency to make shots, as well as Baker’s defense, kept the CSC Wildcats out of the game the entire way.

“We did a really nice job being consistent for the entire game,” head coach Ben Lister said. “We did a great job on the interior affecting some shots.”

After a collapse in the final minute of Wednesday’s loss to the first place Central Methodist Eagles, the Wildcats put that game in the past to cruise by CSC. Baker opened the game 19-5 after hot shooting from junior Kelsey Larson and senior Ericka Simpson. Larson knocked down two trifectas and Simpson hit one in the first seven minutes.

“We found ways to manufacture some points and really took them out of their rhythm,” Lister said.

Baker led 24-12 at the end of the first quarter. Baker stayed strong defensively and limited all of Culver’s chances to score, mainly by dominating on the glass and making shots.

This was a game in which Baker, normally a team that shoots 40 percent from 3-point range, didn’t make a trifecta in the second half. Baker still found a way to make shots around the rim and get to the free throw line against Culver’s worn-out defense. It was the momentum gained early and the defensive effort that kept Culver off the scoreboard.

Culver was also playing without its leading scorer and best player, Randi Lee Plunkett. The senior had never missed a start since she arrived at Culver-Stockton, a streak of 110 straight starts. Plunkett injured her knee in Culver’s overtime loss to William Penn on Wednesday night.

The second half was not as smooth as the opening minutes for Baker but the Wildcats maintained their tough defense, forcing Culver to take off-balanced and low percentage shots.

But Baker maintained a sense of urgency, knowing that Culver came back to beat Baker after trailing by as many as nine points in the second half on Jan. 9. Baker never let Culver get back to within 17 points in the second half.

“Our motto was refuse to lose when we left the locker room,” Lister said.

Baker eventually cruised into an 18-point win on the road in Canton, Missouri, a place that has not been easy for either the men or women over the past few seasons. Last year the women lost 57-55 and went 0-16 from 3-point range.

Baker held Culver-Stockton to 25 percent shooting and a mere 10 percent from three.

A loss for Baker would’ve put the Wildcats into a tie for fourth place with Culver. Culver would’ve held the tiebreaker because of a season sweep of Baker. Lister noted how big of a win this was for his team.

“Especially going on the road to play a team that’s got 18 wins,” Lister said. “That’s never an easy thing to do.”

Senior Macy Wallisch led Baker with another big game. Wallisch scored 13 points and grabbed nine rebounds while also blocking three shots.

It’s rare to have a game when someone other than Wallisch leads the team in blocks but it happened Saturday. Sophomore Sydeny Buchel used her length to affect every Culver-Stockton shot when she was on the floor.

“She has Go-Go Gadget arms,” Buchel said. “People don’t realize that she’s 5-11 and has a 6-3 wingspan. She’s really long and she does a really good job of keeping her position and timing.”

Buchel blocked eight shots on Saturday, including four blocks in the opening minutes of the third quarter. Buchel added to her big game with nine rebounds and five assists.

Sophomore Courtney Hoag scored 11 points off the bench for Baker, going 4-8 from the field and 3-4 from the charity stripe. Hoag’s six rebounds were a key to Baker outrebounding Culver by 13.

Junior Kelsey Larson, after turning the ball over seven times against Central Methodist, responded like an upperclassman should. Larson knocked both of her trifectas and shot 4-5 from the field. Larson finished with 12 points.

“I thought Kelsey did a great job of attacking early and getting herself in a rhythm,” Lister said.

The Wildcats are now alone in fourth place at 19-6 overall and 13-5 in the Heart of America Athletic Conference, one game back of Benedictine. The Baker coaches made it a point to try to finish out the regular season undefeated. If the Wildcats can do that, then they will secure a third-place finish before the conference tournament.

Baker now has its eyes set on Benedictine at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday in Atchison. The Wildcats are in need of every win they can find to build their resumé before the NAIA tournament. Baker will then host Grand View at 2 p.m. on Saturday.