BERRIEN SPRINGS, Mich. – The Mount Mary University basketball team defeated the host Andrews University Cardinals (6-5) on a buzzer-beating basket off the hands of Ka'Riah Simmons (Fr./Genesee, Mich.). With the victory tonight, the 8-3 Blue Angels have tied their program record for wins in a single season; MMU has 11 games left this season.
As they did all evening long, the two teams went back and forth early on in the first quarter. Though briefly held, the Cardinals were able to grab the lead late in the frame and go into the second quarter ahead 15-12.
But the Blue Angels came right back opening up the second with a 7-0 run to recapture the lead. After the Cardinals went on a 7-0 run of their own, the Blue Angels continued to hit from the field and took the 29-25 lead before the end of the half.
The recipe continued throughout the third and fourth quarters: one team went on a brief run, then the opposite would come right back and corral a lead of their own. The high intensity half saw both teams continue to ramp up the pressure on defense. MMU hit 8-of-32 as a team from the field in the second while the Cardinals went 9-of-29 throughout the quarter.
The close game continued throughout and the Cardinals had a 47-45 lead with one minute remaining and possession. MMU forced a turnover from the Cardinals, and the resulting possession saw Lucy Pavelko (Jr./Muskego, Wis.) break past the AU defense and hit a cutting Brianna Valdez (So./Thornton, Colo.) who hit the game tying layup and go-ahead free-throw after the foul.
Then the Cardinals tied the game with 13 seconds left to go after Nadira Cousins hit 1-of-2 from the free throw line. MMU turned the ball over on the next possession immediately following the inbound, but the Cardinals gave the ball right back seconds later on an offensive foul.
On the next inbound, the Cardinals double-teamed Megan Johnson (Fr./Waukesha, Wis.) in the backcourt and Erica Williams (So./Bloomington, Ill.) near MMU's three-point line hoping to keep the pressure away from the basket for the four seconds left in the game. Brianna Veldez received the pass after breaking loose from her defender and found a wide open Ka'Riah Simmons underneath the hoop. Simmons hit the shot with time expiring for the dramatic finish.
"When the ball came to me," described Valdez. "…My initial plan was to get a quick shot up but then I saw Ka'Riah's defender come towards me so I passed her ball with just enough time for the layup."
"When E [Erica Williams] took the charge I knew this was our last chance to win the game," said Simmons after the victory. "I wasn't expecting the ball to come to me. What I was expecting was E or Brooke [Uebersetzig] making some heroic shot to win the game, not me. But when Bri [Valdez] somehow got the ball to me, I knew I had to take the shot. As much as it seems my shot won the game, it was the team heart and desire to win the game that got us the win."
Williams led the offense for the Blue Angels with 12 points going 5-of-13 from the field and 2-of-3 from the free throw line. Williams was one rebound shy of her seventh double-double of the season pulling down six defensive and three offensive rebounds along with a team high four steals.
As a team, MMU spread both the scoring and defense with nine different Blue Angels scoring in tonight's contest along with a combined 14 team steals.
The Blue Angels return to action Mon. Jan. 14 when they head to Minnesota to take on North Central University. For more news, scores and updates on the Blue Angels, check out MtMaryAthletics.com.