Oklahoma City, OK, (Wayland Baptist Athletics) - Arriving at Abe Lemons Arena just 30 minutes before tip-off due to bus trouble, the Wayland Baptist Flying Queens fell behind by 16 points in the first 15½ minutes of Thursday night’s game against Oklahoma City University.
But behind a big assist from their bench, especially Kelea Pool and her season-high 14 points, and a defensive effort that allowed just 23 second-half points, the Flying Queens finally figured things out, and sixth-ranked Wayland forged its most impressive comeback of the season to post a key 70-63 victory over the 10th-ranked Stars.
“Against a team like this with tremendous history that’s very well-coached, it means a lot that our girls came back from a 16-point deficit, especially on the road. It’s just huge,” Wayland coach Alesha Ellis said. “I’m so happy the girls were able to face that kind of adversity, not only in the game, but before it, and overcome it.”
The win allows Wayland (13-2, 5-0 SAC) to take over sole possession of first place in the SAC. The Stars fell to 13-2, 6-1.
After their bus experienced mechanical issues, the Queens borrowed their counterpart Pioneers’ vans and made it to the gym 90 minutes after their scheduled arrival time, only a half-hour before opening tip.
“It was a fast warm-up, that’s for sure,” Ellis said.
The Flying Queens trailed the Stars by 16 points, 38-22, with 3½ minutes left in the first half.
“It took us a little while to get warmed up. I think we were a little bit rattled from everything that went on,” Ellis said.
But Wayland scored 11 unanswered points – getting buckets by Pool, Cailyn Breckel, Margaret Gaydon, and Payton Brown – and trailed just 40-33 at intermission.
Ellis credited her bench – the aforementioned foursome along with Kaylee Edgemon – for getting Wayland back in the game.
“They were the ones who brought us back from that 16-point deficit,” the coach said. “When you can get off a spark off the bench like that it really helps. We got the momentum right before the half, which meant a lot.”
WBU’s comeback came full circle with a tip-in by Edgemon that gave the Flying Queens a 45-44 lead with 3:16 left in the third quarter, and the visitors clung to a 56-54 lead headed to the fourth.
Wayland never trailed in the final 10 minutes.
Shortly after the Stars opened scoring in the fourth to tie it at 56, the Flying Queens scored seven straight points – the first five by Kambrey Blakey – to open up a nine-point, 67-58 lead. But OCU put in the next five points to close to four, then with a minute left missed a 3-pointer to make it a one-point game.
The Flying Queens put it away at the free-throw line where Morgan Bennett and Brown combined to go 3-of-4 and account for the final seven-point margin.
Ellis said the Flying Queens turned things around thanks to stepping up on defense.
“it all started on the defensive end. If we can play good defense it helps on the other end.
Pool finished one point shy of her career scoring high as the junior post finished 5-of-6 from the field, including 4-of-5 from 3-point range. Pool, who also tallied five rebounds, had made seven 3-pointers all season going into the game.
“She had a good game,” Ellis confirmed.
Maci Merket added 13 points and six rebounds, while Brown and Blakey finished with 11 points each. Morgan Bennett finished with eight points and five assists.
Wayland was 9-of-28 (32 percent) from long range while shooting 45 percent (26-of-58) overall. The Flying Queens were 9-of-14 (64 percent) from the foul line.
OCU got 19 points and 12 rebounds from Abby Selzer. She was the only Star in double-figures. OCU shot just 34 percent (22-of-64) from the field, including 29 percent (6-of-21) from beyond the arch, and 13-of-17 free throws (77 percent).
It’s the second straight season the Flying Queens topped the Stars in their own gym. Wayland won their last season over then No. 5 OCU, 66-57.
“If we can get a win on the road, I always feel we got away with something, especially against a good team like OCU,” Ellis said. “What made it even better was we did it after facing adversity. To overcome that and problem solve really helps your team.”
The Flying Queens next play at Southwestern Christian at 2 p.m. Saturday. SW Christian (6-7, 3-4) edged Oklahoma-Panhandle State (8-5, 4-3) on Thursday, 62-61.