FOREST CITY – The Waldorf College women's basketball team continues to improve and simply refuses to back down against tough opponents.
Oklahoma Wesleyan University (22-3, 8-1) came into town ranked No. 12 in the latest National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Division II poll and was challenged every step of the way in a 76-63 win over the Warriors (3-21, 1-8) during Saturday's Midlands Collegiate Athletic Conference matchup.
"We played extremely well," Waldorf coach Katie Schutjer said.
The two teams exchanged leads early before the Eagles led by as many as 10 points in the opening half. Continuing to fight, the Warriors trimmed Oklahoma Wesleyan's lead to 41-35 at halftime.
Waldorf pulled to within four points in the opening minute of the second half. That's all the closer the Warriors would get. The Eagles stretched their lead to 18 points, going on top 72-54 with less than five minutes to play, but the Warriors wouldn't fold.
"We played extremely hard and did not give up," Schutjer said. "If we make a few of the easy shots we missed and a few more free throws, then it's a different ball game at the end."
Mackenzie Gott led Waldorf with 16 points. The 5-foot-11 junior forward from Oskaloosa grabbed seven rebounds, blocked two shots and came away with two steals.
Sophomore Kellie Schmit recorded a double-double for the Warriors, scoring 14 points and pulling down a team-high 12 boards.
Patience Gitau and Kayla Morgan paced Oklahoma Wesleyan with 11 points each. Susan Agesen finished with 10 points.
Twelve of the 15 players the Eagles put on the floor contributed to their scoring effort. Frequent rotations allowed them to slow the Warriors, who relied on their nine-player roster.
"They just had a few more bodies than we did, which let them push the tempo hard for 40 minutes," Schutjer said.
Oklahoma Wesleyan shot 29-of-60 (48 percent) from the field. The Eagles went 8-of-29 (28 percent) from 3-point range, just one week after going 17-of-32 (53 percent) from the perimeter in a 96-53 win over Waldorf at Bartlesville, Okla.
The Warriors went 38 percent from the floor on a 24-of-64 shooting effort and finished 7-of-22 (32 percent) behind the arc.
Waldorf shot 57 percent from the free-throw line, converting on 8-of-14 attempts. Oklahoma Wesleyan went 10-of-20 (50 percent) at the charity stripe.
The Warriors owned a 42-39 advantage on the boards. They were outscored 40-28 in the paint.
Waldorf committed19 turnovers and the Eagles turned the ball over 16 times. The Warriors scored 20 points off turnovers and Oklahoma Wesleyan had 16 points off turnovers.
Waldorf hosts its final three home games of the season next week.
The Warriors begin the week on Tuesday against No. 15 College of St. Mary (18-6, 6-3) at 5:30 p.m.
Waldorf entertains Central Baptist College (11-10, 3-6) on Friday at 5:30 p.m. and plays its final home game against No. 18 College of the Ozarks (17-6, 8-1) in Saturday's 3 p.m. matchup.
Committed to improvement, the Warriors look to make some noise down the season stretch.
"We keep getting better, which is the key," Schutjer said. "We just have to keep pushing and believing that the wins will start coming."