by Philip Dowden
The Evangel women’s basketball team fought off a late rally from the Baker Wildcats Tuesday night for a 74-69 victory.
The Crusaders came out blistering in the first half shooting 54 percent to build a 44-34 halftime lead. However, Evangel needed a late defensive effort to hold off the Wildcats.
“I am thankful we were able to walk away with a win tonight,” said head coach Megan Leuzinger. “Baker has played teams close so far in the conference. We had our chances to extend the lead, and they kept chipping away down the stretch. Girls stepped up when they needed to tonight.”
Stepping up was senior Lexie Vaught who led the way with 18 points and six boards. The Evangel defense forced 16 turnovers and recorded 11 steals as a team to stay perfect in Heart Conference play at 5-0.
After leading by as many 16 in the third quarter Baker cut the Evangel lead to nine at 72-63 with 2:45 left in the game. The Wildcats continued an 8-0 run to cut the lead to three with 48 seconds left, however the Evangel defense stepped up in the final minute to keep the Wildcats scoreless.
Senior Emma Lander would ice the game with 5.1 seconds left, knocking down a pair of free throws for two of her 18 points. Lander came off the bench to add five rebounds and finished 7 of 10 from the field.
“Emma and Lexie played huge for us offensively,” added Leuzinger. “Sadie continues to do a fantastic job distributing the ball, to have 10 assists is phenomenal.”
“Our girls continue to work together as a team, and are finding ways to win,” said Leuzinger.
Evangel returns to road conference action Saturday at last year’s regular-season champion, William Penn. Tipoff from Oskaloosa, Iowa is scheduled for 12 p.m.