WATERTOWN, WI – The battle between the Maranatha Crusaders, and Bethany Lutheran Vikings came down to free throw shooting, as the visiting team made crucial shots down the stretch, while Maranatha could not convert on a chance to tie, and send the game into overtime.
Maranatha engaged the Vikings in a battle for the lead, coming out on top in the opening minutes, with a 14-8 edge on a jumper by freshman point guard Courtney Dunn (Oshkosh, WI) and the Crusaders cruised to a 27-17 lead behind 50% shooting from the field.
But free throws and turnovers would define the second half, and determine the outcome of the game, as Maranatha committed 27 turnovers and shot just 50% from the line while Bethany Lutheran converted nearly 77% of their shots from the charity stripe.
The Crusaders boasted their largest lead of the second half, 33-19 at 16:29, keyed by a three-pointer by senior center Laci Peterson (Chillicothe, IL), and a made free-throw by senior guard Erin Steuerwald (Whitewater, WI).
But in the ensuing three minutes, an attack led by Vikings’ Lacey Ellinghuysen (Peterson, MN), and Jade Pelzl (Rushford, MN), vaulted the visiting team into a 33-33 tie with 13 minutes remaining.
A back and forth battle, that saw two more tie scores, finally tilted in the Viking’s favor, when another three by Pelzl gave Bethany Lutheran a 46-42 lead to force a Maranatha timeout.
After the timeout, the visiting team stretched the differential to 10 points, but Maranatha once again fought their way into contention, rattling off a drive that was capitalized by a pair of free throws by freshman guard Avonlea Kisner (Pleasant Prairie, WI) with just under a minute and a half left.
The score was 57-55, Vikings, when a foul on the Crusaders’ Schulz, sent Pelzl to the line, where the senior guard would miss her first shot, and make the second for a slim, 58-55 margin.
On Maranatha’s next possession, with just 20 seconds on the clock, a crucial turnover, and foul, sent Pelzl back to the line, where she would miss both shots to setup a last-second shot by Maranatha, with just under four seconds remaining.
Peterson attempted a three-pointer that missed, and the Crusaders dropped to 4-7 on the season, in another tightly-contested match. For Maranatha, it was their third game of the season that was decided by five points or less.
Schulz led the Crusaders with 16 points and five rebounds while Peterson nearly missed a triple-double with 10 points, 10 rebounds, and eight blocks in 40 minutes of action.
Maranatha travels to Janesville, WI, to face UW-Rock County, on Saturday, at 12:00 p.m.