Levi Convirs, Sports Information Director
WINONA LAKE, IND. – The Mid-America Christian University Evangels made the key plays down the stretch to pull out a 69-59 victory over the Bluefield College (Va.) Rams on Wednesday to move into the National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA) National Tournament semifinals at the Manahan Orthopaedic Capital Center on the campus of Grace College in Winona Lake, Ind.
The Evangels will now square off with Emmanuel College (Ga.) on Thursday night at 7:45 pm CDT.
“So happy for our kids that their season lives on another day!” MACU head coach Hannah Moeller said.
MACU trailed 49-48 after three quarters and following six lead changes by the 4:34 mark of the fourth, two free throws by Sarai Rodriguez, a three by Jamie Lamb and then a long two-pointer from Rodriguez gave the Evangels some separation at 61-55 with 3:36 left.
After Whitney Smith scored for the Rams to make it a four-point game, Mikki Flores stepped up and nailed six straight critical free throws before Janaya Hines hit both of her attempts at the charity stripe to put the finishing touches on the win.
The Evangels got behind 8-2 early in the first quarter and was still down 13-8 when five points from Flores and four by D’Shala Powell led a 9-2 run to end the period and give MACU its first lead of the game of 17-15 going to the second quarter.
Things remained tight for the remainder of the first half, as the squads exchanged buckets over the final 1:07 that resulted in a 29-28 lead for the Rams at the break.
With the Evangels holding a 37-36 lead at the 6:15 point of the third quarter, the Rams went on an 11-2 run to take the biggest lead of the game for either side to that point of 47-39.
The Evangels though had a quick response as a three by Flores followed by five straight points from Jessica Fairley tied the score with 2:01 left in the third.
Flores spearheaded the Evangels’ efforts tonight with a solid all-around game of 16 points, nine assists, six rebounds and six steals.
Lamb and Powell each scored 10 for MACU, who is now 23-11 on the season.
Smith led the Rams (17-15) with 14 points and Adrianne Goodlet scored 12. Courtney Kendrick scored 11 along with a team-high seven boards, while Danae Cox chipped in with 10 points for Bluefield.
The Evangels were out-shot (43.8 % to 37.7 %) and out-rebounded (34-30), but overcame those deficiencies by forcing 24 turnovers that led to a 27-6 advantage in points off turnovers.
With a spot in the national title game on the line tomorrow night, Moeller gave her early thoughts on the matchup with Emmanuel, while also savoring tonight’s big win.
“Emmanuel is really good and we will need to play very well,” Moeller said. “But we’re going to enjoy this one tonight.”