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Bison women secure first conference victory

Brian Johnson
Sports Editor
Oklahoma Baptist University’s Mckenzie Cooper (20) puts up a shot against Ouachita Baptist Thursday night at the Noble Complex.    
PHOTO BY BRIAN JOHNSON

Execution down the stretch and the second-half 3-point shooting of Briana Marshall got the monkey off the back of the Oklahoma Baptist University women’s basketball team Thursday night at the Noble Complex.

The Bison, shaking from a huge comeback by Ouachita Baptist, settled down and went on a 13-5 run in the final four minutes to secure their first Great American Conference victory with a 72-65 decision over the Tigers.

Oklahoma Baptist, 6-14 on the season and 1-12 in the GAC, snapped an eight-game losing streak and did so behind some superb defense down the stretch along with the scoring of Shawnee High School product Mckenzie Cooper and Marshall in the game.

“I’m very proud of these girls. We got stops when we needed to and hit shots,” said Bison head coach Casi Bays. “Marshall and Cooper stepped up collectively, along with our bench, but Marshall and Cooper really stepped up offensively.”

Cooper paced the Bison with a team-high 21 points, including three treys, and Marshall collected 14 of her 16 points in the second half. She sank all of her four 3-pointers in the second half, including three of those in the third quarter.

The Bison, who got off to a blazing start, had leads as high as 15 points in the first quarter, saw the Tigers take a 61-59 lead with 4:36 to go.

But the big closing run by Oklahoma Baptist began when Marshall splashed in her fourth and final 3-pointer to make it 62-61 with 3:48 remaining. Marshall then dished off to Charissa Price, who drained another trey and Jaylin Stapleton, who finished with eight points, five assists and seven rebounds, converted two free shots to make it 67-61 with 1:54 left.

Price ended up with 11 points, four assists and five boards for the Bison who held a 28-24 rebounding edge.

Oklahoma Baptist was 7-of-8 from the foul line in the final 1:54 to help preserve the victory.

Leading 34-27 at the half, the Bison appeared to blow things open to start the third quarter when they scored the first 11 points of the period to go up 45-27. Marshall canned her first 3-pointer, Cooper followed with an old-fashioned 3-point play, Stapleton nailed a runner off the glass and Marshall converted her second trey for the 18-point cushion.

However, Oklahoma Baptist was only able to maintain a seven-point lead by the end of the third as the Tigers had a 20-8 spurt in the final 7:35 of the quarter. Ouachita’s top two scorers led the charge. Maija Gertsone, who fired in a game-high 25 points for the Tigers, had seven points during that third-quarter stretch, and Makayla Miller, who ended up with 15 points, tallied eight during that span.

“We got comfortable and let them get back into the game in the third quarter. I told the girls that we’ve got to buckle down and everybody got on the same page,” Bays said.

Defense proved to be big for the Bison in the final minute as Stapleton and Cooper each recorded a big steal on back-to-back Ouachita possessions.

The Bison shot 51.1% for the game and were 42.1% from 3-point land. But a big critical factor in Oklahoma Baptist’s favor was the ability to knock down 94.7% of its free throws (18-of-19). Ouachita was a solid 81% (17-of-24) from the charity stripe but shot just 35% from the floor for the game and 35.3% from outside the arc.

The Bison had 15 assists on their 23 made baskets.

Defensively, Stapleton’s four steals led the way with Cooper and Mikayla Shulanberger gathering two apiece.

Oklahoma Baptist’s 22 turnovers helped keep the Tigers in the game as Ouachita Baptist had 16 miscues and got four steals from Miller.

The Bison are at home again Saturday against Henderson State at 1 p.m.