HUNTINGTON, Ind. - The three-game winning streak for the Forester women’s basketball team (13-7, 5-4) came to an end Wednesday night as No. 15 Bethel College (17-4, 7-2) escaped with a 63-55 win over No. 24 Huntington at Platt Arena.
The Pilots’ winning combination came by way of their defense that limited HU to 34.5 percent (19-for-55) shooting and forced 20 Forester miscues coupled with a potent offense in the final twenty minutes. Bethel sizzled the nets for 60.0 percent in the second period to ward off Culler’s upset-minded squad.
HU started the top 25 showdown red-hot, jumping out to a 17-6 lead with just over 11 minutes remaining in the half behind two three-pointers by senior Lauren Meese. The visitors quickly responded, though, using a 15-3 run over a five-minute span to take what proved to be a permanent lead of 21-20 by the 5:23 mark.
Laura Johnson, who leads NAIA Division II in total threes made, did what she does best by knocking down a pair of treys in the final five minutes of the half to make sure her team stayed on top while Pazia Speed scored twice in the paint to keep HU within striking distance as the Pilots headed into the locker room with a 31-28 lead.
Bethel sprinted out of the break to turn their three-point halftime lead into a 13-point spread of 43-30 by the 15:33 mark. They knocked down five of their first six shots, two of which were from long range. The five-minute span proved to be the difference in the game as HU outscored their visitors 25-20 the rest of the way.
Amelia Recker rallied her team back in it by scoring eight of her team-high 16 points to trim the lead to five at 45-40 by the midway point. Two minutes later, Meese connected on her third three of the game to pull HU within three at 46-43 but turnovers and missed shots littered the Foresters’ play over the next five minutes to allow the Pilots to build the lead back to double digits at 58-45 with three minutes remaining.
The never-say-die Foresters scratched and clawed their way back in it to cut the lead in half at 61-55 with less than 30 ticks remaining. After forcing Johnson to cough up the ball on the ensuing possession, Sarah Miller-Jennings had a good look from deep but couldn’t get it to drop as the Pilots closed out the game with a pair of freebies to solidify the win.
Recker had a game-tying ten boards to go along with her 16 points for her first collegiate double double. Speed finished with 14 points, eight rebounds, five steals and four assists while Miller-Jennings and Meese tossed in 11 and ten points respectively.
Johnson topped all scorers with 18 points. Bethel’s other double digit scorers included Ashlee Ort with 14 and Katy Stuppy with 10. Georgia Boisse hauled in ten boards to share rebounding honors with Recker.
The Foresters hit the road on Saturday to face 9th-ranked Saint Francis at 1:00 p.m. The Cougars are coming off an impressive 62-55 win over No. 1 Indiana Wesleyan.