Sports

Lady Pilots topple no. 1 IWU behind Hooks’ game-winner

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If you haven’t been paying much attention to the Bethel College women’s basketball program, it may be time to climb out from that rock you’ve been living under and take notice.
Senior guard Chrissy Hooks hit a game-winning three in the closing seconds to give the Lady Pilots a 50-48 victory over no. 1 ranked IWU.
Beating the no. 1 team in the country is a pretty good reason, right? The top-ranked Wildcats of Indiana Wesleyan University (IWU) were the favorites as they stepped off the bus to play the no. 15 Lady Pilots on Saturday, Feb. 9. But by the time they stepped on the court at Gates Gymnasium, it was time to throw rankings out the door and play some basketball. The two teams set the tone early on defense. The game’s first points did not come until IWU scored at the 15:13 mark in the first half…from the free throw line. But then the Lady Pilots caught fire with a 14-5 run over the next six minutes behind five straight points from senior guard Laura Johnson. Bethel would stretch their lead to 22-12 later in the first half before a 12-6 IWU run closed the gap. At half the Lady Pilots held a 28-24 lead. The Wildcats scored 10 of their 24 first half points from the foul line but shot just 25 percent from the field and a paltry 15 percent from behind the arc. Chalk that up to some stifling defense from the Lady Pilots. But despite their poor first half shooting, the Wildcats only found themselves down by four heading into the second period. And they capitalized on their good fortune. The Wildcats controlled the early minutes of the second half and took a 44-40 lead with 8:12 left in the game. Cue that stifling defense once more. The shooting would go cold again for the Wildcats as they could only manage four more points the rest of the way. But the Lady Pilots' offense wasn’t much better down the stretch. But it was better. Things were looking a little dicey as Johnson stepped to the free throw line for two shots with the Lady Pilots down 48-45 with 15 seconds left. But that didn’t stop her from knocking both of them down to bring the game to within one point. Clutch. But the Wildcats still held a 48-47 lead. After the inbounds, the Lady Pilots quickly fouled IWU’s senior guard Claire Ray sending her to the line for a one-and-one. Ray missed the first free throw and Johnson grabbed the rebound. Door open. Everyone and their grandmother knows that Johnson is the player that Bethel wants to have the ball when the seconds are ticking away. So, as she brought the ball up the court with time winding down, the IWU defenders swarmed her forcing her to pass. She found senior guard Chrissy Hooks who drained a three-pointer with just seconds remaining. The Wildcats inbounded the ball and put up a last-second desperation heave which fell harmlessly to the court giving the Lady Pilots a 50-48 victory. Door firmly shut. This was a signature win for the Lady Pilots, and Head Coach Jody Martinez was ecstatic about his team’s clutch play down the stretch. "This was an intense defensive battle between two great teams and the energy in the building today was exciting," said Martinez in an interview with bethelcollegepilots.com. "I am so proud of our seniors and their composure late in the game. We put our best shooters on the floor at the end of the game and Chrissy Hooks will have a memory for a lifetime with that shot she hit.” The Lady Pilots were led by Johnson who scored 17 points and the Wildcats got a double-double (16 points, 10 rebounds) from senior forward Paige Smith. The win gives Bethel a 22-6 overall record and a 12-4 record in the Crossroads League. They have now beaten teams ranked no. 1, no. 3, no. 7 and no. 14 in the latest NAIA Division II rankings. Their next game comes on the road against Grace College on Wednesday, Feb. 13.
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