Despite a 23-point afternoon from senior Leah Smith the No. 14 Rogers State women's basketball team was unable to upset No. 5 Westminster College (Utah). The Griffins narrowly escaped the Hillcats with a 68-65 win inside the Claremore Expo on Saturday.
The Hillcats opened the game with an 11-3 lead thanks to swarming defense and six points from senior Sierra Cornwell. Midway through the first half the Griffins tied the game 17-17 with a 14-4 spurt. The Hillcats outscored WC 10-5 to close the half and clung to a five-point advantage at intermission. Smith poured in 13 first half points but was outdone by WC senior Cydney Tibbitts who registered 16 points at the break.
RSU hung on to its single digit lead until the 7:38 mark when Kelsi Wells capped off a 9-4 run with a trey to give the Griffins their first lead of the second half at 53-51. The teams traded buckets for the remainder of the game but WC pushed its lead to four points with 56 seconds remaining in the game, putting the Cats in a bind. Senior Kelby Fritz drove down the court and hit a layup to cut the deficit to a bucket with 45 seconds to play but RSU quickly fouled and Tibbitts sunk a pair of free throws to give WC some breathing room. RSU had a couple more opportunities to knot the game in the final 30 seconds but couldn't convert the tying bucket.
Smith was three points shy of tying the single-game record for points scored as she led RSU with 23 points. Cornwell rounded out the double digit scorers for the Cats with 17 points and six steals. The Hillcats shot 43 percent from the field and were 6-21 from long distance.
Tibbitts led four Griffins in double digits scoring with 25 points and eight rebounds. WC shot 40 percent from the field and 41 percent from long distance. The Griffins edged RSU on the boards 35-31.
Rogers State (10-3) will return to action after the holiday break on December 29th at the Claremore Expo against No. 11 MidAmerica Nazarene at 2 p.m.