First it was seventh ranked and undefeated Cumberland University. Then it was University of the Cumberlands, 16th in the nation. And Thursday in Lourdes Hall, Lena Bramblett’s Patriots completed the trifecta with an exhilarating 80-78 win over 13th ranked Shawnee State.
It took five minutes of overtime, and two huge, clutch baskets before St. Catharine could claim Thursday’s win over the visiting Bears from Ohio who began the season as the nation’s second ranked team. It also marked the first Patriots’ win over Shawnee State since the Bears entered the Mid-South Conference in 2010. And it was the third win in eight days against ranked opponents.
“Great basketball game to watch,” said Bramblett whose team improved to 10-4 overall and 4-3 in the Mid-South. “Just two teams battling right to the end.”
Exactly to the end. Following a Bears’ turnover with six seconds left in overtime, the Patriots took the ball at midcourt. Janae Howard took the inbounds pass, got the ball to point guard Machera Calhoun who angled off the right side of the lane, then tossed up an off balance 16 foot runner that found the basket with one second remaining.
“It may have been the ugliest play I have drawn up,” added Bramblett. “But we wanted Machera to attack where she could either get a shot or get fouled.”
Calhoun’s heroics were only made possible due to an earlier key basket. After the Bears (14-4, 5-3) had overcome a 13 point SC second half lead to take a 74-71 advantage, Alexiss Griffin rattled in a 3-pointer to tie the game with eight seconds left in regulation.
Shawnee State didn’t seem fazed by Griffin’s goal as they quickly scored the first four points in overtime to lead 78-74. But Reilly Poirier made two free throws with 1:37 on the clock and then a field goal at 1:01 which tied the game, setting up Calhoun’s game winner.
“We just keep finding ways to win,” Bramblett said. “They have a very, very good team that is well coached. But we were able to play through some funkiness and foul trouble to get a win.”
Griffin was 5-12 from 3-point range to lead the Patriots in scoring with 19 points. Howard added 14 and Carol Ruiz-Lopez, who was 3-5 from long range, had 13 points. Ruiz-Lopez also had a team high eight rebounds, to go along with Rianne Hofstraat’s seven boards, but the Bears held a 49-35 rebounding advantage.
The Patriots were 8-12 from behind the arc in building a 47-37 halftime lead but made just 2-11 3-point attempts after intermission. Overall they shot 42 percent from the field while Shawnee State was 44 percent overall and 6-12 from 3-point range. The Bears were 14-25 from the foul line and St. Catharine was 10-13.
Next up in Lourdes Hall for the Patriots will be another Ohio opponent who they haven’t beaten in Mid-South Conference play. Rio Grande (5-11, 0-8) visits Saturday for a 2:00 tip-off.