From RSU Sports Info.
Scott Slarks, Assistant Athletic Director for Communications
CLAREMORE – Rachel Block hit a pull-up jumper in the closing seconds as the Rogers State women’s basketball team picked up a statement win over UA Fort Smith, 66-64, to open Heartland Conference action Thursday night at the Claremore Expo Center.
The Hillcats held a three-point lead until the Lions’ Jasmine Brainard converted a three-point play with 10 seconds remaining to even the score leading to Block’s heroics. RSU was in front more than 30 minutes of the contest, but were forced to rally back in the final minutes despite leading by as many as 17 points early in the third quarter.
Courtney Smith drained a corner triple to get the scoring started for RSU on a Kami Bunch feed and added her second from long range a minute later as the home side jumped to a quick 10-5 lead. Heather Roberts capped a 7-0 run for the Hillcats with an old-fashioned, three-point play to push the margin to double figures, 19-9, before closing the opening quarter in front 22-15.
After the Lions got a free throw to start quarter two, RSU took control of the game scoring the next nine points for a 15-point lead. Four different players scored in the run for a 31-16 advantage with seven minutes to play in the opening half.
Emily Gamble intercepted a UAFS pass and ran the court feeding Block in the lane for an open layup, where she scored and drew a foul. The junior hit the ensuing free throw giving the Cats their largest lead of the stanza, 36-19, before taking a 37-25 edge into halftime.
An early fourth quarter three pointer by Bunch stretched the advantage to 40-26, but the Lions answered the challenge by scoring the game’s next 15 points for their first lead of the night, 41-40. The Hillcat drought ended on a Bunch jumper and RSU closed the frame on a Lindsey Byfield triple from the right wing when Block snuck a bounce pass around a UAFS defender. RSU was whistled for all eight team fouls called in the 10-minute, third quarter clinging to a 45-43 lead.
The final quarter kept the fans on the edge of their seats with six ties and four lead changes as the Lions held their largest lead, 61-56, with 3:11 to play in regulation. The Cats responded by tallying the next seven points as Block scored in the paint for a 63-61 edge. Block came through again for RSU with the winning basket over conference preseason No. 2 for the 66-64 victory.
Bunch paced RSU with 10 points and six assists as six other players scored at least eight points for the victorious home team. Natasha Kindred pulled down a game-high nine rebounds. Brainard led all scorers with 18 points for UAFS, 11 of which came at the free throw line, and added a team-high six rebounds.
The Hillcats (6-2 overall, 1-0 HC) close the calendar year with a New Year’s Eve matinee hosting Texas-Permian Basin. The Heartland Conference matchup is scheduled for 3 p.m. at the Claremore Expo Center and can be caught live on the Hillcat Network at www.rsuhillcats.com/live.