Late comeback falls short; Lumberjacks’ postseason dream finished
Despite a late rally that consisted of an 8-0 run, including five straight points for leading scorer Amy Patton, the NAU women’s basketball team fell to the Montana State University (MSU) Bobcats (17-9, 9-5 BIG Sky Conference) 83-78 this past Thursday night.
Down 76-73 with 49 seconds remaining, sophomore forward Khyra Conerly rebounded the ball and immediately drove through traffic to set the offense on the other side of the court. Conerly saw an opening and drove to the basket, but missed the layup with 38 seconds left on the clock.
“My strength is getting to the basket, so I was just feeling it and it was just easy getting in there; I wasn’t forcing it,” Conerly said. “I was open, but I was too far under the basket.”
The Bobcats’ freshman guard Kalli Durham quickly grabbed the rebound and pushed down the court where junior Lumberjack forward Tyler Stephens-Jenkins fouled her. Durham hit the ensuing free throws to push the lead back to five and end the Lumberjacks’ (8-18. 3-11 BSC) chance for a comeback win.
“It wasn’t the play we had initiated, but she saw an avenue and she got to the rim,” said head coach Laurie Kelly. “I definitely think that was the dagger. It led to a transition score, it went to five points and then to me, that was when the game kind of got a little out of hand.”
Conerly started the game a perfect 5-of-5 from the floor, but missed her final three shots. The sophomore finished the game with 10 points, five rebounds and a pair of steals.
“And the truth is, when you look at it, from the angle I had it, she had a good look at it,” Kelly said. “There are times when she forces shots [but] this was not a forced shot. I feel like she got a look at the rim.”
The teams were even at 63 with 7:54 left, but the Bobcats went on a 9-0 run in the game’s next two minutes, then to a 11-0 run a minute later to force the Lumberjacks to play from behind.
The Lumberjacks responded with their 8-0 run in a two and a half minute span before failing to finish the comeback.
“Everything fell apart over, like, a two minute period,” Kelly said. “You are down nine with five and a half to go, and I thought we did a good job. We got it to where it was close; we cut it to a one possession game.”
Patton scored the final five of the 8-0 run and 10 of the Lumberjacks last 12 points. The only non-Patton score came from a layup by freshman point guard Jasmine Sneed as the clock expired.
“Every team goes on runs, I mean it happens every game. They just went on a run,” Patton said. “I feel like we did good. We didn’t finish it out, but hopefully we can get a road win Sunday.”
The junior finished with a team-high 20 points on 6-of-13 shooting, added four rebounds, four assists and three steals. She has averaged 21 points in the last four games despite averaging a 14.2 per game for the season.
With their chance for a BSC tournament berth officially over, the Lumberjacks head out on the road for the final time this season to the Cal State Bakersfield Roadrunners (5-21). The Roadrunners, one of only four independent women’s basketball teams, beat the Cal State Fullerton Titans Thursday night.
“I didn’t anticipate being a team that wasn’t in the top six,” Kelly said. “Beginning of the year, I just wouldn’t have believed it. The fact is that is where our reality is [and] we kind of put ourselves there.”