FULTON – 'Twas days before Christmas and all through Historic Gym, excited students from Fulton Public Schools filled the seats in hopes to see the Westminster College women's basketball secure the Blue Jays' 10th straight win.
But it wasn't to be. Nebraska Wesleyan played the Grinch and the Prairie Wolves mounted a late comeback to make off with an 86-81 victory, snapping Westminster's nine-game winning streak and sending the Blue Jays into a blue Christmas break with a 9-2 record on the season.
"We didn't shoot as well as we have been, but I think you have to credit (Nebraska Wesleyan) for that," Westminster Coach James Arnold said following the game. "Their pressure and their active zone made us uncomfortable all night."
The Prairie Wolves forced Westminster into 21 turnovers on the afternoon to score 20 points compared to 17 Westminster points from 17 Nebraska Wesleyan turnovers.
Both teams battled back and forth throughout a nip and tuck contest. Nebraska Wesleyan led 24-21 after the first quarter and 44-41 at intermission. Heading into the final quarter, Westminster held a slight 61-60 lead.
In the fourth, both teams struggled to score early until the Blue Jays increased their lead to three, 63-60, on a Kendahl Adams jumper with just over eight minutes remaining in the contest. A four-point play by freshman Abbie Reece pushed the Westminster lead to eight, 70-62, but the Prairie Wolves chipped away to pull to within three, 72-69, with 5:14 left on the clock.
Nebraska Wesleyan would eventually regain the lead, 80-79, on a Caitlin Navratil layup and held off a late Blue Jays charge to secure the win.
Westminster finished the contest shooting 36 percent from the field (26-73); 23 percent from 3-point range (7-31) and 85 percent (22-26) from the charity stripe. Nebraska Wesleyan shot 45 percent from the field (31-69) and 30 percent (9-30) from beyond the arc and 83 percent (15-18) from the free-throw line. Westminster outrebounded Nebraska Wesleyan, 51-33.
Westminster outdistanced the Prairie Wolves in second-chance points (22-15) as well as points in the paint (34-30), but in the end it was Nebraska Wesleyan that secured the win.
Mirrakohl Johnson had a double-double for Westminster, scoring 23 points and grabbing 19 rebounds – 12 of them offensive boards – to lead Westminster. Adams was the only other Blue Jay in double figures, chipping in 18 points. Adams was one rebound short of her own double-double with nine boards.
Navratil led three Prairie Wolves scoring in double figures with a game-high 35 points. Klaire Phillips added 12 and Mikenzie Delgado chipped in 11 points for Nebraska Wesleyan.
Monday's game with its unique start time of 11 AM served as Westminster's School Days Game with students from local elementary schools in attendance. The announced attendance for the contest was 550 fans.
"What an awesome atmosphere today," Arnold. "We are so thankful for Fulton schools to allow their students to come out."
Westminster closes out the 2018 portion of its schedule on December 30th when the Blue Jays travel to Rolla to face Missouri S&T.
"We had a fantastic first semester and I am really pleased how this team is coming together," Arnold said. "The ladies get a much deserved, long Christmas break and then we'll get back at it for a tough stretch of conference games."