The Washburn women’s basketball team renewed the Turnpike Tussle Friday night when they conquered Emporia State, 61-53.
When the teams met earlier in the season, Washburn prevailed in a thrilling double overtime victory at Emporia. Although overtime was not necessary this time around, it still shaped up to be a grind-it-out battle to the end.
Early in the second quarter, a three-pointer by junior guard Reagan Phelan, partnered with a bucket from sophomore guard Hunter Bentley and a free throw from junior guard Alexis McAfee, pushed the Ichabod advantage to 24-17.
The McAfee free throw came with 6:25 remaining in the quarter and Washburn didn’t score another point until there was 1:51 to go to the half.
In that time, Emporia State closed the margin down to one and eventually took a brief lead at 26-25. However, senior guard Makayla Vargo converted a layup as time expired to push the Ichabods back in front, 27-26, at the half.
Emporia State played a zone defense much of the night to try to take advantage of the height and length they had on the floor. It took a while for the Washburn offense to break that down.
“They’re so long an extended, so we were kind of having a hard time defeating it,” said head coach Ron McHenry. “We talked about, at halftime, that one pass isn’t going to defeat it and we’re going to have to stay in it and I think the girls did a nice job with that.”
The score remained tight through much of the third quarter. The Lady Hornets looked as though they had found some footing offensively and might make a run up 35-31. Bentley put a stop to that with a three-pointer midway through the quarter to close the gap back to one.
Neither team led by more than two the rest of the quarter. A late layup by the Hornets left them with the two-point advantage at 43-41 at the end of the quarter.
Washburn came out with some fire in the fourth quarter, making eight of their 12 shots, including some clutch three’s down the stretch.
One of those threes came from Phelan to begin the fourth quarter. It ignited a 9-0 run that put the Ichabods up 50-43.
Emporia State got within four once but couldn’t get any closer the rest of the game. Phelan hit a clutch three with 2:23 remaining to put Washburn up nine and essentially seal the game.
Late free throws from McAfee helped her in recording a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds.
Freshman Nicole Murugarren led the Washburn scoring effort with 15 points missing only one of her seven shots attempts.
The emotions were running high all night. The pressure was on for both teams to continue their seasons and defeat their rivals.
“I don’t think any of us want to stop playing,” McAfee said. “We all love the game of basketball, so that really motivates us to play harder and to give it our all on every play.”
With the victory, Washburn now has 20 wins on the season and will face the top-seeded Fort Hays State Tigers on Saturday night for a spot in the championship game.