Women beat Benedictine in Fab Four rematch


Jenna Black

Point guard Joann Lira yells out a play Dec. 10 against Benedictine. The Wildcats won 69-56, improving to a 7-1 record within the Heart of America Athletic Conference. Image by Jenna Black.

Story by Jim Joyner, Sports Editor

In their first meeting since the 2016 NAIA Fab Four, the No. 12 Baker Wildcats used a big fourth quarter to defeat the No. 14 Benedictine College Ravens 69-56 on Saturday in the Collins Center. The Wildcats have won six of their last nine against the Ravens and Baker improved to 9-2 overall and 7-1 in the Heart of America Athletic Conference.

Entering the fourth quarter, Baker held a 48-45 lead and it looked like it was going to come down to the wire, again, in a Baker-Benedictine clash. Senior Sydney Buchel was in foul trouble in the first half and went into the locker room with zero points, and she only had four at the end of the third quarter. The fourth quarter, however, was all Baker and Buchel.

Buchel scored 12 fourth-quarter points and helped Baker outscore Benedictine 21-11 in the final quarter.

Both Wildcat post players, senior Kenzie Cook and junior Courtney Hoag, were in foul trouble in the second half and both fouled out in the fourth quarter. Buchel, who normally plays at the No. 4 position, became Baker’s strongest presence down low in the final stretch of the game on offense and defense. Buchel was also a perfect 6-for-6 at the free-throw line in the fourth quarter, sealing the Baker win.

The Ravens had the game’s pace in their favor for the first three quarters by forcing Baker to play slower and sloppier on the offensive end. The first half was also tightly-officiated, and Benedictine took advantage of this by attempting 12 free throws in the first half. Baker led BC 33-28 at the half.

In the third quarter, Benedictine answered every Baker basket. With only a three-point lead entering the fourth quarter, Baker turned up the energy and took control for the entire fourth quarter. Sophomore Anna Hignight made a 3-pointer and another field goal to open the final frame, and the Wildcats maintained an eight-point lead until the final two minutes when Baker pushed the lead into double digits and finished the win at the line.

In the battle for second place in the Heart of America Athletic Conference, the Wildcats prevailed and remain one game behind the 9-1, 8-0 MNU Pioneers. The Ravens dropped into a tie for third place at 7-4, 6-2.

Buchel finished with 16 points, seven rebounds, four blocks and a steal in only 24 minutes of action. Hignight also scored 16 points with two 3-pointers and five rebounds, after scoring 18 points on Wednesday in Baker’s 69-65 loss at Columbia College. Senior Kelsey Larson scored 13 points and senior Kenzie Cook finished with seven points before fouling out. Baker only made five 3-pointers, but the Wildcats outrebounded Benedictine 39-29.

The Wildcats won’t play another Heart game until they host Evangel on Jan. 4, but they will play one more non-conference game before their holiday break. Baker will host Southeastern University on Dec. 19 in the Collins Center. Southeastern is 9-0, 4-0 at the NAIA-Division II level and the Fire play in The Sun Conference.