Fayette, Mo.—The Statesmen women’s basketball team notched a signature win on the road Wednesday as it rallied to upset #8 Central Methodist 62-60 in overtime in a Heart of America Athletic Conference battle.
William Penn (12-4, 8-3 Heart) collected huge shots from Olivia Usher (Sr., Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Mathematics) and Brenda Pennington (Sr., Hammond, Ind., Psychology) and survived some nail-biting moments down the stretch to drop the Eagles (15-2, 9-2 Heart) for the third-consecutive time. CMU had entered Wednesday in a tie for the league lead, but now trails Grand View by one game. The navy and gold sit in a three-way tie for third, two games back of GVU.
The instant classic featured five ties and 13 lead changes, but the hosts looked like they were going to run away with it early, claiming an 8-2 advantage just three minutes into the evening. WPU responded and kept it close, trailing just 12-9 after one period and 27-20 at halftime.
The deficit grew to nine points before the Statesmen scored eight unanswered. The visitors continued to apply pressure, eventually going on top for the first time at 36-35 before relinquishing the edge seconds later to trail 38-36 entering the fourth quarter.
Central Methodist again appeared to put the game out of reach, tallying eight straight as part of a 10-0 run, but William Penn refused to quit and answered with an 11-0 run of its own for a 47-46 edge with 3:34 to go in regulation. The final minutes were a back-and-forth affair with Usher seemingly giving the visiting crew the lead for good at 54-53 on a leaner with 3.6 seconds remaining. The senior ended the night with 15 points.
CMU took a timeout to move the ball to the frontcourt and Lanay Rodney then drove the baseline. She was fouled by Pennington with 1.6 ticks left and had two free throws to either tie or possibly win the matchup. She fortunately missed the first try, but hit the second. The sides were looking down the barrel of an extra session, but WPU turned the ball over in the backcourt, allowing the Eagles a last-gasp effort. The buzzer-beater came up short, though, and overtime was indeed forced.
The ‘fifth’ period included two more ties and four more lead changes. William Penn was up 59-58 in the waning seconds, but left the door wide open for the home squad as Veronica Preciado was fouled on a three-point shot. What followed was par for the course for the Eagles as she fortunately missed the first two throws, but made the third to tie the game. Overall, Central Methodist was just 8-for-18 at the charity stripe, including 4-for-11 in the second half and overtime combined.
The navy and gold then called timeout to advance the ball and Pennington, for the second time this winter (sent game to OT against Evangel on December 7), called her own number for the heroics. She took the inbounds pass with 5.8 seconds on the clock, but was immediately trapped in the corner. Someone, the senior managed to gain a little separation and her deep heave found nothing but net as the eventual game-winner made it 62-59 in favor for WPU. Pennington tied for the game lead with 18 points on 6-for-9 shooting (2-for-4 3-PT).
With 1.6 seconds still remaining, the Eagles again were left with one final opportunity. They did not get a chance for a field-goal try, but instead even more insanity was brought into the contest as a collision occurred at midcourt, leading to two free throws for CMU. Mercedes Jefflo was successful on the first shot and then, with only 1.0 seconds left, purposely missed the second. The ball bounced around, but no one could corral it as time expired and William Penn escaped fairly anti-climactically with the road ‘W’.
Neither side found much success shooting the ball as WPU was on the bottom side, 36.5%-32.8%. The Statesmen were stronger, though, from behind the arc (30.0%-18.8%) and at the line (WPU was at 76.5%).
The victors also took advantage of an impressive 51-37 rebounding edge (18-13 offensive), which translated into an 18-7 mark in second-chance points.
Despite a rough go in the ball control department (24 turnovers to 16 for CMU), William Penn was only outscored 20-16 in points off turnovers.
Makenzie Pezley (Sr., Keokuk, Iowa, Elementary Education) entered the game as the NAIA Division I’s leader in three-point percentage and did not slow down Wednesday. The senior narrowly missed double figures off the bench, hitting a team-high three three-pointers (five attempts) for nine points.
Kate Ylitalo (Sr., Maple Plain, Minn., Biology) was next with eight points, while also playing a huge role on the boards with a game and career-high 13 rebounds.
Autumn Voigt (Sr., Clintonville, Wis., Business Management) added five points and two blocks, while Pennington recorded six assists and Usher stole two passes.
“This was a big win for our ladies, beating a very talented and well-coached team on the road,” Head Coach Steve Williamson said. “Our players fought hard and grinded out a win. Brenda Pennington was of course clutch with that late shot, but we had so many players make huge plays on offense and defense all night that led us to this victory.”
Next Up: William Penn travels to Cedar Rapids Saturday to face Mount Mercy in Heart action at 2 p.m.