WICHITA — The McPherson College women's basketball team saw its season draw to a close Wednesday with a 66-62 loss to No. 19 Friends University in a Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference Tournament first-round game at the Garvey Physical Education Center.
The Falcons (23-7) used an early 8-0 run to build a 13-5 lead just past the midway point of the first quarter. The Bulldogs (14-16) responded with a 10-1 run capped by a Sonerka White layup to take a 15-14 lead with 46 seconds left in the period. Four Mackenzie Vining free throws were matched by just one from Danielle Holt, leaving McPherson with an 18-16 deficit headed to the second quarter.
It took nearly three minutes for either team to score in the second frame with White breaking through with a 3-pointer at the 7:33 mark to put the Bulldogs ahead 19-18. After a basket by Laramie Edens at the other end, White drained another 3-pointer. A breakaway layup by Brooklyn Coe gave McPherson a 24-20 lead with 5:59 to play in the half, but Friends responded with five straight points - all from Akathioutou - to move back in front with 4:43 remaining.
White hit from behind the arc once more at the 3:34 mark to give the Bulldogs a 29-27 lead. McPherson could not hold on to the advantage, though, as the Falcons finished the half on a 10-1 run capped by a 3-pointer from near the mid-court stripe by Vining as the buzzer sounded.
White scored 17 points in the first half as the Bulldogs shot 39.3 percent (11-of-28) from the field overall and held a 27-16 rebounding advantage in the first 20 minutes. Friends shot 35.1 percent (13-of-37) from the field. Both teams made five 3-pointers.
Cami Richardson opened the second half with a 3-pointer, but the Falcons followed with nine of the next 10 points to push the lead to 12 points on another Vining 3-pointer with 6:25 left in the quarter. The McPherson defense locked down the Friends offense for the next three minutes, limiting the Falcons to a pair of Vining free throws while closing the gap to one on a basket by Brittany Roberts at the 4:00 mark.
Matching 5-0 runs left Friends with a one-point advantage as the clock rolled inside one minute to play in the quarter, but Akathiotou hit one of two free throws to double the Falcon lead headed to the fourth quarter.
Points were at a premium in the final minutes of the contest. After a Holt basket tied the game at 57-57 with 7:13 to play, the Falcons held the Bulldogs without a field goal for the next 6:35 but could not pull away. Yowana Posey hit a pair of shots, giving Friends a 61-57 lead at the 5:26 mark but those would be the last field goals in the contest for the Falcons. Vining was 4-of-5 at the line down the stretch, while Akathiotou was 1-of-2 to keep the Bulldogs at arm's length.
Friends shot 33.3 percent (20-of-60) from the field overall, slightly better than McPherson's 32.8 percent (21-of-64). The Bulldogs dominated the boards by a 55-34 margin, but committed 23 turnovers to the Falcons' 15.
"We rebounded the ball very, very well," said head coach Gordon Reimer. "We took them out of extra possessions. I think, at many times, it could have gone our way. We just missed some [easy] shots that, if some of those go in, it could be a different outcome. But I think the girls played extremely hard...they left it all out there on the court and I couldn't be more proud of this team and the way they performed tonight."
White finished with a team-high 23 points on 8-of-21 shooting with five 3-pointers. She also pulled down a career- and game-high 12 rebounds for her first double-double as a Bulldog. Coe added 13 points while Roberts posted nine points and 10 rebounds. Holt registered five points, 11 rebounds and five assists off the bench, while Richardson added nine points, nine boards, three assists and a blocked shot.
Vining scored a game-high 24 points on 4-of-12 shooting with three 3-pointers. She was also 13-of-14 at the line. Akathiotou chipped in with 14 points, four boards, three assists and two steals, while Lexi Evans finished with six points, six steals, three rebounds and three assists.
Wednesday's game marked the final contest in Red and White for seniors Coe and Maressah Milum (Douglass, Kan., Independence CC).
"You're always going to miss a senior," added Reimer. "They provide stability to the team, they've 'been there, done that' in games. Coe is the hardest worker every practice, so we're going to miss that work ethic in practice every day. Maressah is the mother of the team. She cares about everybody and takes care of everybody and always has the right words to say when they need something said to them."
Despite the loss of Coe and Milum, a very strong core returns for the 2018-2019 season.
"We played plenty of freshman and sophomores [this year]," continued Reimer "They're going to be better next year because of every test they've been put through this year. The game just needs to slow down a little bit for them mentally, and I think that'll happen as they mature and, when that happens, it'll just help get them where we need them to go.
"We took a ranked team that won the conference - and only lost two conference games - to the wire. I think that makes us a very hard out in the future"
Friends advances to face University of Saint Mary in a KCAC Tournament semifinal Saturday.