Updated: Sunday, 03 Feb 2013, 12:07 AM EST
Published : Sunday, 03 Feb 2013, 12:07 AM EST
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FORT WAYNE, Ind. -- Kayla Drake, Meghan Slusher and Jenelle Wilson combined on a special delivery to make the difference to give fourth-ranked University of Saint Francis a heart-pounding 52-49 win over 14th-ranked Bethel College in a crucial Crossroads League game on Saturday afternoon at Hutzell Athletic Center.
Drake slipped between two defenders and banked in a running jumper from about 8-feet out returning the lead to the Lady Cougars with seven seconds left to play. After a Slusher steal, Wilson was fouled and calmly buried two free throws with 0.8 second left to seal USF's ninth consecutive win.
The Pilots had taken a 49-48 lead with 16 seconds to play when Katy Stuppy scored inside setting up Drake's dramatic shot.
USF (24-2, 13-1 CL) held on to a share of first place in the CL to set up an NAIA Top 5 clash and CL showdown at top-ranked Indiana Wesleyan University on Wednesday at 7 p.m.
Drake and Wilson both wore smiles of relief, but still shaky immediately after the nail-biting win.
"I knew comin' out of the timeout, I was going to take the shot, but I'll have to watch it on tape to see what really happened because I don't remember the ball goin' in," Drake said with a laugh after scoring 21 points. "I knew I wanted the ball in my hands. I acted like I was goin' to over the screen because I had been goin' over the screen all day, and I just tried to get to the hoop.
"What I remember thinkin' was 'Where's my man? I gotta get my man."
"Huge" was the word Wilson used to describe Drake's lead-regaining shot.
"I almost jumped up and down I was so happy," Wilson said after scoring 12 points including the only two 3-pointers. "Kayla is just so good at that, finds her way in there and gets to the rim. We know she can do that, so it wasn't a surprise, it was such a relief."
USF Head Coach Gary Andrews praised Drake for her leadership and execution in the cluch.
"She just took the game into her own hands, did a great job of taking the ball hard to the basket, got bumped a little bit and yet was strong enough to finish," Andrews said. "She squeezed in there and hit a big shot. Just a great job by her."
Wilson said she was still very nervous stepping to the line to shoot the free throws with less than a second to play.
"I was nervous because we were just up a point and they coulda easily chucked one down there and made it," Wilson said. "I just tried to follow my normal routine and not think about (the situation) and I made them both, so I was happy."
The Lady Cougars opened up a 46-39 lead with 5:28 to play after Drake scored, but the Pilots (20-6, 10-4 CL) charged back to within a point, 46-45, on a Johnson basket with 3:15 to play. Both teams misfired 3-pointers in the next two possessions, but Wilson scored with 2:13 to play increasing the Lady Cougars' lead to 48-45 with 2:13 to play. Stuppy whitled the USF advantage to a point when she nailed a pair of free throws with 1:38 to play. Slusher missed the front end of a 1-and-bonus with 34 seconds to play and Ort then scored to give BC its first lead since 7-6 at 14:22 in the first half.
Wilson said the defense was the difference in the rematch after the Pilots won 80-71 in overtime in the first meeting on Jan. 5 at BC.
"We didn't have the best offensive day today, but both teams played such good defense," Wilson said.
"We did a great job on defense after Drake made the shot," Andrews said. "Points were at a premium because of the way both teams played defense. We knew goin' in they can shoot from downtown, so I thought our defense was awesome this afternoon."
USF shot .383 connecting on 18-of-47 shots while BC shot .294 hitting 15-of-51 shots, .250 in the first half on 7-for-28 shooting. BC came into the game No. 5 in NAIA Division II 3-pointers made per game at 9.0, but the Pilots only hit 5-of-26 attempts (.182).
"When the buzzer went off," Andrews answered with a chuckle when asked when he relaxed.
After Kristen Hicks hit a long 3-pointer pulling BC within a point, 29-28, at 16:03, Wilson retaliated with a 3-pointer for a 32-28 USF lead with 15:13 to play. The Lady Cougars bumped the lead up to six four times, then eight at 44-36 after Brooke Ridley hit a pair of free throws at 8:27. USF still led 46-39 with 5:28 to play before the Pilots rallied down the stretch.
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