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Makenzie Pezley looks to make a pass to Brenda Pennington while being guarded by a Crusader defender.

OSKALOOSA—The Statesmen women’s basketball team gutted out a gritty win Saturday, taking down Heart of America Athletic Conference foe Evangel 78-75 in overtime.

WPU (7-3, 5-2 Heart) overcame an incredible perimeter performance by the Crusaders (6-3, 5-1 Heart), who entered at #26 in the NAIA as well as being undefeated in league play. EU, which had made just 56 three-pointers through its first eight games (30.6%), broke out by making 15 of its 31 attempts (48.4%). Conversely, the navy and gold were only 5-for-17 from deep Saturday.

Fortunately for the hosts, the visitors were not as productive inside the arc, going 11-for-35 for a final overall clip of 39.4%. William Penn was effective in its two-point shooting, however, going 24-for-42 en route to a 49.2% overall mark.

The contest was a wild affair that witnessed Evangel on top for much of the afternoon. WPU led 20-19 midway through the second quarter, but the Crusaders closed on a 10-2 run for a 29-22 halftime advantage.

EU’s edge grew to 13 early in the third, but the Statesmen pushed back and pulled to within one on three separate occasions in the period. The margin was one once more at 49-48 in favor of the visiting crew. Unfortunately, the Crusaders answered with 13 of the next 17 points and were firmly in control.

The hosts never faltered in their belief that they could come back and scored eight unanswered to make it a 62-60 game with 25 seconds left in regulation. Evangel was fouled, but only made one of its two free throws, leaving the door open for possible heroics.

Though the final play was not executed to perfection, Brenda Pennington (Sr., Hammond, Ind., Psychology) was able to use her dribble to obtain an open look at the top of the key and she drained a deep trifecta to send the matchup into overtime tied at 63-63.

The extra session was a back-and-forth affair that featured four ties and nine lead changes. It was a true whatever-you-can-do-I-can-do-better situation, but in the end it was the Statesmen who had the final laugh.

Down one at 75-74, Bailey Reardon (River Falls, Wis., Elementary Education) was fouled on a layup attempt and the freshman, with ice in her veins, sunk both tries to flip the lead. A Crusader turnover gave the ball back to the navy and gold and Pennington pushed the edge to three with a pair of charity stripe attempts. A desperation three-pointer by Evangel fell off the mark and the Statesmen celebration began.

Both sides fared well at the stripe with WPU going 15-for-18 and EU ending up 8-for-10. William Penn committed two fewer turnovers (12-14), but were outscored 16-10 in points off turnovers. The Statesmen were also better on the boards at 37-34. It did not result in a higher yield in second-chance points, though, with the visitors holding a 12-8 mark.

Pennington was one of four players to reach double figures. She ended up 9-for-14 from the field (2-for-4 3-PT, 4-for-4 FT) on her way to a game-high 24 points. The senior also led the Statesmen in assists (5) and steals (4).

The trio of Kate Ylitalo (Sr., Maple Plain, Minn., Biology), Reardon, and Olivia Usher (Sr., Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Mathematics) also had impressive outings. Ylitalo made a team-best three three-pointers in her 16-point effort, while Reardon managed 15 and Usher tallied 14.

Haley Mullinnix (Jr., West Branch, Iowa, Sports Management) contributed six points as well in the victory.

“This was an unbelievable game!” Head Coach Steve Williamson said. “Evangel is a great team that plays very hard. I am proud of our team for battling back. So many players stepped up big when we needed them. Now we need to build on it when we get back from break.”

Next Up: William Penn is off until just before the New Year, returning to action on December 30-31 by competing in the Judson Classic. On the 30th, WPU meets host Judson at 5:30 p.m., while on the 31st, the Statesmen take on Cardinal Stritch at 1 p.m.

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