The McPherson College women's basketball team erased a 16-point fourth-quarter deficit but could not overcome solid free throw shooting by 22nd-ranked Friends University down the stretch in a 77-70 loss Wednesday night in Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference (KCAC) play at the Sport Center. McPherson (12-12, 8-9 KCAC) jumped out to a 5-0 lead on an early 3-pointer by Cami Richardson (Hesston, HS) and a pair of free throws by Brittany Roberts (Mansfield, Texas, Lake Ridge HS), eventually building its lead to six points midway through the opening quarter before Friends (17-7, 15-2 KCAC) rallied finish the frame on a 7-2 run. A pair of Betty Akathiotou free throws with four seconds to play left the Bulldogs with just a 15-14 lead after one quarter. A basket by Laramie Edens on the opening possession of the second quarter gave the Falcons their first lead of the game. McPherson would keep it close until the 5:58 mark when Akathiotou drained a 3-pointer to put Friends up by four. The Falcons added three more points over the next two minutes to push their advantage to seven points before Sonerka White (Houston, Texas, Eisenhower HS) drained a pair of free throws brought the advantage back to five points with 2:24 to play. The Bulldogs would counter every Falcons score down the stretch, leaving Friends with a 33-28 halftime lead.
The back-and-forth play would continue into the early portion of the third quarter before the Falcons were able to piece together a 7-0 run to move out in front by 12 with 6:04 left in the quarter. The lead remained in double-digits the rest of the quarter with Friends scoring the final six points to lead 56-40 after three quarters.
McPherson made a furious rally to start the final frame, outscoring Friends, 19-3, over the first 5:40 to tie the game at 59 when Brooklyn Coe (Corvallis, Ore., Chemeketa CC) sank a free throw to complete and old-fashioned 3-point play at the 4:20 mark. After rebounding a missed shot by Akathiotou on the Falcons' ensuing possession, the Bulldogs had an opportunity to take the lead, but Akathiotou redeemed herself by stealing the ball from Kristina Battle (Houston, Texas, Austin HS) and scoring the fast-break layup at the other end. Over the final 3:37, Akathiotou added another hoop and Friends went a combined 14-of-16 at the line to keep the game just out of the Bulldogs' reach. McPherson shot 32.9 percent (23-of-70) from the field compared to Friends' 29.9 percent (20-of-67), but the Falcons made up the difference at the free throw line by converting 33 of 38 opportunities. In the fourth quarter alone, Friends was 15-of-18 at the stripe. The Bulldogs were still a respectable 19-of-25 from the line, but were whistled for 32 fouls compared to just 22 for the Falcons. McPherson also had 19 turnovers, while Friends committed just 13. White led three Bulldogs in double figures with 22 points on 6-of-19 shooting. She also had a pair of 3-pointers and went 8-of-12 at the line, while pulling down six rebounds, dishing out eight assists and making three steals. Coe added 16 points on 7-of-11 shooting and Richardson finished with 10 points, eight rebounds, four assists, three steals and a pair of blocked shots. Roberts tallied eight points and a game-high 12 rebounds. Akathiotou finished with a game-high 28 points off the bench after scoring 16 in the first half. She was just 6-of-14 from the field with a pair of 3-pointers but cashed in at the charity stripe, draining all 14 of her attempts. She also had six rebounds, three assists and a pair of steals. Makenzie Vining added 13 points and nine rebounds, while Edens had 10 points. Lexi Evans had three assists and five steals despite missing significant time with foul trouble. Yowana Posey added nine points and nine rebounds.
McPherson hits the road for its next two games after playing four of the previous five at home. On Saturday, the Bulldogs head to Ottawa University (7-16, 5-12 KCAC) looking for a season sweep of the Braves. McPherson took the initial meeting, 61-51, on Dec. 9 in McPherson. Tipoff for Saturday's contest is slated for 3 p.m. from Wilson Field House. That will be followed by a game at York College (4-19, 1-16 KCAC) on Wednesday, Feb. 7, at the Freeman Center. Tipoff for that contest is slated for 8 p.m.