Propelled by an offensive output for the ages, the Knox College women’s basketball team (4-12, 4-7) rallied from a deficit that stretched to 17 with 3:56 remaining in the first half and defeated the visiting Beloit Buccaneers (4-11, 1-9), 114-100, during a Saturday Midwest Conference (MWC) contest.
The 114 points scored by the Prairie Fire in its impressive victory shattered the previous program record regarding points scored in a contest, 102 points, which the squad equaled in its 102-82 triumph at Beloit on Dec. 13. By getting to the charity stripe 49 times and converting 38 free throws, the Fire broke the previous program records for free throws made (29) and free throws attempted (47).
During the game’s initial minutes, Knox and Beloit exchanged early buckets, as the contest was tied on five occasions prior to the ten-minute mark. A free throw by Beloit forward Claire Bush put the score at seven all with 15:38 remaining.
Beloit senior Kandace Fox knotted the score at 12 with a free throw at the 14:07 mark. A pair of free throws by Prairie Fire senior Abby Owens tied the contest at 14. At 11:35, a jumper by Beloit freshman Maddie Sychta tied the contest for one final time in the first half, 16-16. Following Sychta’s score, the Lady Buccaneers went on a 17-4 run that culminated in a 33-20 Beloit lead.
While Knox scored the ensuing five points thanks to a pair of free throws from sophomore guard Chantal Heckman and a three-pointer from freshman guard Brittney Price, the Fire could not further reduce its deficit in the first half.
After slicing the Beloit advantage to 37-29 via a pair of Price free throws, Knox struggled to score and stop the Buccaneer attack, as Beloit utilized an 11-2 run to enjoy its largest lead of the game (48-31) with 3:56 remaining in the opening half of play. By outscoring Beloit 13-7 during the remainder of the first half, the Fire pared the Buccaneer lead to a manageable 11-point deficit: 55-44.
With respect to the initial 20 minutes of play, Knox struggled to both make field goals and defend Beloit’s offensive attack, as evidenced by its paltry 24 percent field goal success rate in comparison to Beloit’s robust 54 percent shooting rate.
Hitting 18 of its 19 attempts from the free throw line kept Knox in contention, while junior Kristin McDonald’s block of Beloit guard Faith Jones’ scoring attempt with 15 seconds remaining in the first half invigorated the Memorial Gymnasium crowd and offered the Fire needed momentum for the second half.
Buoyed by the energy provided by its late first-half run and McDonald’s block, the Fire began the second half with an 11-2 run that trimmed Beloit’s lead to a slim two points with 17:12 remaining in the contest.
After Claire Bush scored two of her game-high 25 points to extend the Beloit advantage to 65-59, a pair of free throws from Heckman and junior guard Sara Johnson, respectively, truncated the Beloit lead back down to two points.
At 13:55, a jumper from freshman guard Jodi Marver put the score at 65-65, resulting in the game’s first tie since the 11:35 mark of the first half. Beloit rapidly manufactured five points in the 38 seconds following Marver’s score to put the Bucs up five. However, the Fire answered, as seven consecutive points by Knox gave the team its first lead of the second half with 12:21 left to play.
A score by Beloit sophomore Leah Kruckman tied the game at 72-72. An Owens three-pointer and a score from senior Kelly Ricketts put Knox up 77-74. After a free throw by senior Mackenzie Hilliard with 10:20 remaining, Beloit tied the contest — for one final time — at 77-77.
Thereafter, the Fire enjoyed a 14-2 run that provided the squad with a 91-79 lead. While Beloit reduced the Knox lead to six, 104-98, with 2:48 remaining, the Buccaneers could not catch the Prairie Fire, as solid free throw shooting down the stretch from McDonald and senior guard Lynn Mueller ensured the victory for Knox.
While Beloit hit on a greater percentage of its field goals than Knox and collected 18 more rebounds than Knox (58-40), the Prairie Fire took advantage of Beloit turnovers and outscored the Buccaneers 46-12 with regard to points off turnovers.
Leading the Fire in scoring was dependable senior forward Krystyna Williams who netted 16 points and just missed a double-double with nine rebounds. With 15 points, six rebounds, six steals and five assists, in addition to an aforementioned block, McDonald offered the Fire a superb performance.
“We had a lot of energy out there. … The team energy was great. I got some steals, and … made some free throws,” McDonald, who went 9-13 from the free-throw line, said.
Prior to its contest against Beloit, the Fire hosted Lawrence University in a Friday evening MWC clash. Donning its purple jerseys typically reserved for away games, the Fire connected on 11 three-point field goals, and outrebounded Lawrence by a 55-39 margin in a convincing 98-80 win over the Vikings (1-14, 1-9). Williams recorded her fourth double-double of the 2011-12 campaign by scoring 18 points and hauling in ten rebounds. Going 5-12 from behind the arc and converting on her only pair of free-throw attempts, Owens added 17 points for victorious Knox.
Head coach Emily Cline’s squad will play its next four games away from Tim Heimann Court. The Prairie Fire hopes to continue its recently-strong play during its road trip, which begins in Jacksonville against the Illinois College Lady Blues on Jan. 28.