FULTON,Mo. – Coach Talisha Washington's pregame message to her Westminster College women's basketball team before Saturday's game against Spalding in Historic Gym was simple and prophetic: The harder the battle, the sweeter the victory.
The Blue Jays put on their battle armor and went to work, grinding out a sweet 75-70 overtime victory over the Eagles in St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference action.
"Resilience was the key in our win today," Washington said. "Everyone did great things – from rebounding, taking smart shots, even communicating throughout the game was big for us."
Spalding opened the contest with a 7-0 advantage, and held a 15-12 lead after one quarter. In the second quarter, Westminster continued to battle and finally managed to pull even, 21-all, on an Abbie Reece 3-pointer. The Blue Jays would take the lead midway through the quarter, 24-21, on a Makayla Jackson trey. Westminster would increase its lead, 29-25, before taking a 31-27 advantage into the locker room at the half.
In the third quarter, Westminster led by as many as nine, 44-35, with 2:03 remaining in the period, but Spalding cut the lead to six and trailed, 46-40, at the end of the period. In the fourth, the hawkish Eagles would not go away. Spalding tied the game 56-all with 2:26 remaining on a layup by Tse Gahagan. A 3-pointer by Gahagan gave Spalding a 62-58 advantage, but a pair of treys by Kallee Dowler and Reece knotted the game at 64-all with just 22 seconds remaining. A shot by Gahagan at the buzzer was off the mark and the contest went into overtime.
In the overtime period, Westminster held Spalding (7-8, 5-3) scoreless for the final 3:26 of the period to secure the win.
Westminster, which has struggled from the free-throw line, shot 92 percent from the charity stripe on Saturday. The effort was not lost on Washington, who said it was "key."
"Rei (Imamura), (Mikaylyn) Callahan and Abby Nichols provided us with big free throws down the stretch," Washington said. "So proud of our effort today. The challenge at hand is being consistent in our efforts, which I'm sure we will continue to make that a point of emphasis moving forward."
Westminster (6-9, 5-3) returns to action on Wednesday when the Blue Jays travel to Jacksonville, Ill., to face MacMurray in a 5:30 PM contest.