Baker women’s basketball team defeats Avila in first round of HAAC Tournament

Story by Kyle Davis

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What a difference a year makes.

On March 4, 2009, the Baker women’s basketball team dropped a 65-62 loss on the road to Avila University in the first round of the HAAC Tournament in a game that needed all 40 minutes to decide. The final seconds of the game saw Avila’s Ashley Townsend hit a game-winning 3-pointer to send the Wildcats home.

On March 4, 2010, the Wildcats again faced the Eagles in the first round of the HAAC Tournament, this time at home and this time coming away with a 61-50 victory. The final seconds of this game saw Baker junior Brooke Soske cradle the ball and stare up at the clock to send Baker to the next round.

The five Baker seniors who lost to Avila last season are gone, and a group of transfers have replaced them, but for those still on the team from last year, revenge was on the mind Thursday.

“I thought about that after we got the pairings,” head coach Susan Decker said. “I told my staff, ‘wouldn’t it be great for us to hit a three at the buzzer to win.’ I’ll take an 11 point win, obviously, but they knock us out last year in a hard fought game back and forth at their place and I thought it was the same thing here, a hard fought game.”

Baker had only a 29-28 lead going into halftime, but was able to pull away in the second half. Baker shot 39 percent from the field and 44 percent from behind the arc, while holding Avila to 35 percent from the floor.

“Everything came together tonight. It was just everyone playing together,” senior Tayler Stacks said.

Stacks, the lone senior on the team, was not able to record a victory on senior night Feb. 25 against MidAmerica Nazarene University, however, she was able to get to win in possibly her final game at Collins Center.

“It was awesome. Senior night was a bummer definitely, but I’m just glad we got to go out with a win tonight, and this is when it all counts so this is what matters most,” Stacks said.

Two Wildcats scored in double figures against the Eagles. Soske scored 13 points on a perfect five-for-five shooting night and was three-for-three from behind the arc.

“Brooke Soske was huge tonight,” Decker said. “We ran, I think, three sets for her coming off of screens and I think she hit all three of them.”

Junior Aubree Gustin also scored a team-high 13 points while grabbing seven rebounds. Gustin hit nine of 11 free throws, including several down the stretch to seal the victory.

“Aubree is our best free throw shooter. Anytime we can get her to the line I feel pretty confident that we’re going to come away with two made baskets,” Decker said.

Junior Brittany Hines contributed nine points, while junior Brooke Sanders and sophomore Gloria Atanmo each scored eight. HAAC Newcomer of the Year Emily Gibson was held to five points, but did grab seven rebounds.

“If you tell me that Emily Gibson is going to score five points and we’re going to win by 10 or 11, whatever it was, that to me shows a lot of maturity from our other kids that have really stepped up and started to realize that we can do things and not always rely on our inside game,” Decker said.

Baker (18-13) will face No. 1-seed William Jewell College (24-7) in the next round of the tournament at 7 p.m. Saturday in Liberty, Mo.