OKLAHOMA CITY (Jan. 5, 2013) – Kaitlyn Morris scored a career-high 17 points for Oklahoma Christian, but an unlucky break in the final seconds proved to be the difference as Arkansas-Fort Smith rallied for a 73-69 win on Saturday afternoon in the Eagles’ Nest.
The loss snapped a four-game winning streak for OC (8-7), which played without leading scorer Katy O’Steen, who missed the game for family reasons. Still, even without O’Steen’s inside presence, the Lady Eagles nearly beat its new Heartland Conference rival – if not for a quirk of basketball rules.
With the game tied at 67-67, OC’s Roz Hamilton rebounded a miss by UAFS (4-9) but, in a rush, turned the ball over. Angi Ramey shot and missed for the Lions, but rebounded her own miss and scored while being fouled by Hamilton with 10.4 seconds left.
Ramey, who had missed four of her five free throws to that point, went to the line and missed so badly that the ball wedged in between the rim and backboard. Rules dictate that situation to be a jump ball and the possession arrow pointed the way of UAFS, so the Lions retained possession.
OC was forced to foul, and Danielle McFadden and Katie BenAmor each made a pair of free throws in the final 9.2 seconds to seal the win for UAFS.
”All these years, there have been crazy things happen at end of games, but I’ve never seen that,” OC coach Stephanie Findley said. “As they say, that’s the way the ball bounces.
“It’s amazing and it’s a stupid rule. That’s a rule that maybe ought to be looked at, because she shot so bad, she was rewarded for it and her team was rewarded for it. That shouldn’t happen on a free throw like that.”
Even with O’Steen out, the Lions chose to pack the inside on defense and give OC’s 3-point shooters decent looks. The Lady Eagles went 13-of-41 from 3-point range (31.7 percent) while going 9-of-28 from 2-point range. Morris (5-of-12) and Stevens (4-of-12) did sizable damage from behind the arc for OC.
OC opened the game with four straight 3-pointers, three by Stevens, and led 12-3 less than 2½ minutes into the game. The Lady Eagles’ hot start quickly cooled, however, and they went more than eight minutes without a point late in the half. UAFS couldn’t pull away, though, and led only 33-31 at halftime.
Consecutive 3-pointers by Morris gave OC its first lead of the second half at 53-50 with 9:31 left and the Lady Eagles still were up 66-61 after two free throws by Aisha Martin at the 3:43 mark. That was OC’s last basket.
Brittany Holbert’s 2-pointer and a 3-pointer by McFadden tied the game. Holbert and Stevens both went 1-of-2 from the line, with Stevens’ shot coming with 28.5 seconds left, setting the stage for the final sequence.
“We feel bad about the way we played,” Findley said. “We missed open 3s. After starting out pretty hot, we got cold. We had too many turnovers (21). We had a lot of unforced mental errors, especially against their half-court zone. I felt we got plenty of good shots. We just didn’t knock enough of them down.
“We’ve got to do a better job in the last five minutes. These last several games, the last five minutes, we’re blowing leads because we’re not making good decisions. We’re not getting organized. We’re not reading what they’re doing. That’s part of our inexperience. We’ve got to learn from it, and we will, I think.”
Morris’ previous career high was 13 points, set Jan. 16, 2010, against Mid-America Christian.
Stevens finished with 15 points, while Hamilton had nine points, nine rebounds and a career-high three blocked shots.
Five UAFS players reached double figures in scoring – BenAmor (13 points), Ramey (13), McFadden (12), Candice Followwell (12) and Porsha Donnerson (12).
The Lady Eagles will be on the road next week, playing two Heartland Conference foes – McMurry (Texas) on Thursday and St. Edward’s (Texas) on Saturday.