Playing in its first game under interim head coach Jeff Nickel, the Shawnee State women’s basketball team, ranked 19th in the NAIA Poll, reversed its earlier loss to St. Catharine on its home court Saturday afternoon with a 75-63 win.
The Bears (16-6, 7-5 MSC) outscored the Patriots (13-6, 7-5 MSC), who were receiving votes in the latest NAIA Poll, 46-33 over the final 20 minutes to secure the victory.
Schera Sampson finished with a team-high 26 points and just missed a double-double with nine rebounds in the winning effort. Alannah Sheets finished the game with 16 points, including 14 during the second half, while Alex Pohl added 10 points and seven rebounds.
Janae Howard finished with a game-high 27 points to pace the Patriots’ offense.
Both defenses started the game exceptionally strong as through the first nine-and-a-half minutes, the Patriots held just a 13-12 advantage. However, the Bears would go on a 10-0 run that included six points from Sampson to go up by nine – their largest lead of the half. Those 10 points came in a span of just over two minutes and gave the Bears a 22-13 edge with 8:23 to go in the first.
The teams would trade a pair of threes before St. Catharine answered with a 7-0 run of its own, cutting the lead to just two with 5:37 in the half. The Bears would not relinquish their lead until there was 1:33 on the clock with a jumper from Howard tied the game at 27.
The visitors took the lead after she converted the and-one attempt. Another shot from Howard would put the Patriots up by three but a jumper from Sampson, her 16th point of the half, would leave the Patriots leading by just one at 30-29 as they headed to the locker rooms.
The two teams would see the score tied at three different times during the opening two-plus minutes of the second half – the final deadlock coming at 36-all. The Bears looked like they may be pulling away when they went on to score seven of the next nine points and would hold that five point edge until the 14-minute mark.
The Patriots cut the lead down to one, prompting an SSU timeout. Out of the break, seven straight points from the Bears would get the lead back up to eight with 11:50 on the game clock. A three from Howard would stop that run but the Bears answered back with seven more points of their own to take a 59-47 lead with 9:05 to play.
Shawnee State would see its lead grow to a game-high 15 points at 68-53 with just over four minutes to play before St. Catharine mounted one last challenge. The Patriots went on a 10-0 run to cut the SSU lead to five with just over two minutes to play. However, that five point deficit did not last for long as Sampson got the free throw line on the next possession.
She would make the front end and Pohl pulled down the offensive board and got it back to Sampson who laid it up to make the lead eight. The Bears’ defense would not allow another Patriots’ point and two free throws from both Abby Feuchter and Sheets would make the final 75-63.
After nearly identical shooting performances in the first where SSU went 12-of-34 and St. Catharine went 12-of-33 from the field, the Bears made 15-of-27 shots from the field in the second half (55.6%) while the visitors were held to just 11-of-38 (28.9%) during that time. Shawnee State shot 6-of-12 from distance in the game while the Patriots made just 3-of-15 from beyond the arc.
Five different Bears recorded multiple assists during the game, led by a team-high four from Feuchter, who also finished with eight points. Desirai Smith also finished with three helpers to go along with a nine-point performance.
The Bears will be on the road next weekend when they travel to Campbellsville (Thursday, 6 p.m.) and Lindsey Wilson (Saturday, 2 p.m.).