Wayland Baptist women’s basketball knocks off No. 1 Freed-Hardeman in OT

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JACKSON, Tenn. – This is a press release from Wayland Baptist athletics.

Fifth-ranked Wayland Baptist came from 12 points down to earn a 63-57 overtime victory over top-ranked Freed-Hardeman, Tenn., on Saturday night in Oman Arena during the NAIA Women’s Basketball Invitational.

“Needless to say, I’m super proud of our kids for pulling out that win,” Wayland coach Alesha Ellis said. “It’s nice to have competitors that are going to do what it takes to come back from that. It’s not necessarily something you can coach. It’s just having a competitor’s instinct and a willing to win.”

Morgan Bennett scored 17 points, Kaylee Edgemon 15 and Payton Brown 12 to lead the Flying Queens (6-2) to their second consecutive overtime victory. On Friday night, Wayland defeated No. 16 Bethel, Tenn., in OT, 76-68.

Against Freed-Hardeman (4-3), a national semifinalist last year which lost on Friday to No. 13 Talladega, Ala., 77-68, Wayland trailed 17-5 late in the first quarter. But the Flying Queens scored 11 straight points to get back in it.

“They could have shut us down early in the game,” Ellis said, who again glowed about her team’s competitiveness. “Knowing the game plan and getting better at your weaknesses and focusing on your strengths…alt that is important. But if you go in without a killer instinct and a desire to win, none of that matters.”

Wayland was down by six, 33-27, at halftime then took its first lead of the game, 38-37, on a 3-pointer by Jenna Cooper with 4 minutes left in the third.

Freed-Hardeman went back up by six, 54-48, with 4:18 left in regulation when Wayland went on an 8-0 run to take a 55-54 lead with 1:23 to go. Only one point was scored after that, by Freed-Hardeman on the second of two free throws to tie it with 8 ticks left.

Bennett missed a contested game-winning shot at the regulation horn.

Ellis said Wayland is gaining valuable experience with all of its close game, something she hopes will pay off later in the season.

“All these last-second plays will make us more comfortable as a team in those situations when we face them later on,” the coach said.

After outscoring Bethel in the five-minute extra period Friday, 14-6, Wayland had another solid overtime against Freed-Hardeman, outscoring the Lions, 8-2. The Flying Queens never trailed after Edgemon scored and Brown converted a 3-point play.

Up three after Freed-Hardeman scored its only two points of OT, Wayland got two free throws from Brown with 21 seconds left to make it a two-possession game. Brown then came up with a defensive rebound before Edgemon added a free throw to end the scoring.

Bennett’s 17 points included 3-of-6 shooting from 3-point range and a 4-of-4 effort from the free throw line, where Wayland hit 13-of-15 (87 percent). Six different Queens hit 3s, combining to go 8-for-27 (30 percent), as WBU’s bench outscored the Lions’ substitutes, 25-5.

Freed-Hardeman, which got 15 points from both Alyssa LeMay and Reagen Floyd, shot just 26 percent (19-of-72) from the field, including 5-of-23 (22 percent) from distance.

Ellis said the Flying Queens did a masterful defensive job on all-American Haylee Croom, who ended with 11 points but on 3-of-17 shooting, as well as on LeMay, who after scoring 15 in the first half went scoreless in the final 25 minutes.

“Our defense did such a nice job on (Croom), and we shut (LeMay) down in the second half,” said Ellis, who credited Edgemon and Cooper for their efforts against LeMay. “I challenged them at halftime and they responded well.”

The Flying Queens overcame 18 turnovers, three more than the Lions.

Wayland will continue a season-opening stretch of eight Top 25 opponents in their first 10 games when they host No. 21 Thomas More, Ky., at 4 p.m. Dec. 7. The Saints are undefeated at 6-0. WBU then hosts No. 23 LSU-Alexandria on Dec. 19.

“As a coaching staff we’re still trying to figure out what we’re best at. We’ve been able to answer some of those questions playing the schedule we have, especially this weekend,” Ellis said. “Every game we want to get better at something. We want to get better for March.”

This was a press release from Wayland Baptist athletics.

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