Andrews ignites Lady Owls’ rally

Dak Dillon/FULTON SUN photo: William Woods junior guard Sharron Andrews dribbles downcourt in the Lady Owls’ 68-64 victory over Missouri Baptist in the semifinals of the AMC postseason tournament Friday night at Anderson Arena.

Dak Dillon/FULTON SUN photo: William Woods junior guard Sharron Andrews dribbles downcourt in the Lady Owls’ 68-64 victory over Missouri Baptist in the semifinals of the AMC postseason tournament Friday night at Anderson Arena.

She wanted no part of her.

The “she” in this scenario was Missouri Baptist University senior guard Kylee Grant, with the “her” being William Woods junior guard Sharron Andrews. That was Andrews’ belief, though she didn’t say it in so many words when reflecting on Friday night’s American Midwest Conference semifinal between the two teams.

“I sensed a little hesitation in her,” Andrews said of Grant. “I kept clapping my hands to get her distracted and get in her head.

“I realized that she didn’t want to drive it on me or go up against me.”

Andrews, saddled by being a virtual non-factor in the first half, used defense to create offense in the final 20 minutes as the No. 21 Lady Owls scraped back from an eight-point halftime deficit to defeat Missouri Baptist 68-64 at Anderson Arena.

Andrews notched all 10 of her points after the break and came up with four of her five steals in the second half to spark No. 2 seed William Woods.

“Phenomenal,” Lady Owls head coach Dan Chapla said of his point guard. “She didn’t have a bucket or any assists in the first half and I think their zone (defense) really limited her, but great players find a way and she found a way.”

William Woods (29-3) started the second half down 39-31 and reeling from torrid shooting by No. 3 seed Missouri Baptist (16-13). The Lady Spartans came into Friday night leading the NAIA Division I in 3-point shooting percentage (39.6) and connected on 4-of-14 from behind the arc in the first half.

All four 3-pointers came from senior guard Alexis Rhodes. The 6-foot Rhodes scored 19 of her game-high 28 points in the opening 20 minutes, including 4-of-8 shooting from 3-point range.

“She’s a great player and we knew that,” Chapla said. “She’s leading the league in three-point field goal percentage and when she gets open looks, she makes them.”

Rhodes scored eight points in a 9-2 Missouri Baptist run to close the first half, punctuated by a foul of Grant by Lady Owls junior guard Cierra Tatum behind the 3-point line with no time left, leading to three made free throws.

The Lady Spartans shot 43 percent in the first half and forced William Woods into 13 turnovers during that span.

“The ball was just going their way in the first half, they got long rebounds and honestly I felt like they out-hustled us,” Andrews said. “I actually brought the team together before the second half and said, ‘Y’all, they are actually out-hustling us.’

“There are a lot of things out of our control, but there are things that are in our control, so we need to go out and play ever y possession like it’s our last.”

Much of the same went down after halftime as Missouri Baptist pushed its lead to 13 points. That, however, was before Andrews decided to become glued to Grant’s grill. Andrews picked the pocket of Grant on back-to-back possessions, leading to two baskets. The plays sparked a 25-7 run by the Lady Owls over the course of 6:37, resulting in a 53-49 lead.

Once Andrews got into the act, her teammates followed in tow. Senior forward Rachel Baker scored nine of her team-high 20 points in the second half and benefited from William Woods’ resurgence.

Lady Owls senior guards Jill Sutton and Jestine Gerber both came alive in the second half, scoring all eight and six of their respective points in that period.

“They made basketball plays and there’s not a lot I did on the sidelines,” Chapla said. “I felt we were kind of stagnant in the first half and did a much better job in the second half of driving and getting some cutters inside, and getting easier looks.”

William Woods’ defense held Missouri Baptist to just under 30-percent shooting in the second half and the Lady Owls led by as many as six points over the last 10 minutes of the game. The Lady Spartans closed within 66-64 with 45 seconds left and were poised to at least tie it after Andrews missed a layup.

But Grant was off the mark on a potential game-winning 3-pointer from the right wing with :4.7 to play. Andrews then knocked down a pair of free throws, and that was the game.

“There wasn’t any hesitance, but at the same time, the last couple of games I have been having a hard time with free throws,” Andrews said. “So I felt if I could just get through that, I’d be in the gym working on my free throws.”

The win sets up a confrontation between William Woods and rival Columbia College, the tournament’s top seed. The No. 14 Lady Cougars — who pummeled No. 4 seed Park University 76-48 in Friday night’s other semifinal — will host the Lady Owls for the AMC postseason title at 7 p.m. Monday.

Columbia College (27-5) swept the season series, including an 80-73 win in the regular-season finale on Feb. 26 in Columbia. The Lady Cougars — who captured the AMC regular-season championship — also won 71-55 on Jan. 29 in Fulton.

“It’s the third time both teams have played each other and both are going to the national tournament,” Chapla said. “I asked our kids after they beat us in Columbia if they wanted to come back and face them again, and we do.

“We aren’t afraid to lose, so we’re going to go battle and fight and give it our best chance.”

Just as Andrews knew she could get the better of her opposing guard on Friday night, she’s got a sneaking suspicion that the third time may be the charm against Columbia.

“They beat us two times, but they’re not going to beat us three times,” Andrews said with a grin. “The first time we lost by about 16 and the last time by seven, so I’m really confident that we’ll win.”

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