The No. 4 seeded women’s basketball team made a 22 point comeback against No. 1 Greenville to send the conference tournament semifinals into overtime. The Gorloks fell just short of an upset at H.J. Long Gymnasium, Greenville’s home court.
The Gorloks lost 68-65 on Feb. 21 to knock Webster out of the conference tournament and into the offseason. Head Women’s Basketball Coach Jordan Olufson said the turning point of the game came when the Gorloks started forcing turnovers in the second quarter. They forced 31 Greenville turnovers throughout the game.
“I don’t know if I’ve been prouder of a team,” Olufson said. “You’re talking about a bunch of freshmen, sophomores and one junior going 22 down and most of them, it’s their first conference tournament experience.”
Webster started the game down 13-0. Greenville then increased its lead to 36-14 with five minutes left in the second quarter. Then, the Gorloks put on the pressure.
Webster used its defensive pressure to close the deficit to seven after the third quarter and then tie the game with little time to spare in regulation.
Freshman guard Lauryn Freeman picked up a steal with less than one minute left on the clock. Freeman tossed the ball to sophomore guard Naomi Johnson, who put up a 3-pointer with 53 seconds left and the game tied at 58.
Swish. Johnson’s 3-pointer gave the Gorloks their first lead of the game with little time to spare in regulation. Johnson said she was ill going into the game, throwing up once in the first half and twice at halftime. She ended the game with 12 points, 10 of those coming after halftime.
“I was confident that the three I shot was going in and when it did I just felt relieved,” Johnson said, “because we were finally in the lead and we fought all the way there.”
Johnson said the team went farther than anyone expected them to in the semifinal game. The young Gorlok squad, Johnson said, earned every play until the final buzzer went off.
Olufson said Freeman’s big steal with a minute left hyped up the team but he made sure nobody became overly confident.
Olufson said he felt like the pressure fell more on Greenville’s team being the No. 1 seed in the tournament. Going into overtime, the Gorloks held the momentum from tying the game.
The two St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SLIAC) rivals went back and forth in the five minutes of overtime. Neither team went up by more than two points until a Greenville free throw with five seconds left.
Sophomore wing Kaylee Heggemann threw up a 3-pointer with two seconds to spare but missed. She said the team’s comeback displayed the heart her team has.
“The second half of this game was one of the best halves all season,” Heggemann said. “It wasn’t just one person making plays. Each and every person contributed in different aspects of the game and that’s what playing as a team is all about.”
The Gorloks women’s basketball team came out of the SLIAC semifinals with a rare occurrence. None of their players retired their Webster jerseys after the game.
Fourteen freshmen, six sophomores and one junior are expected to return on the Gorloks’ home turf next season. The team ended the season 17-9 overall, just three wins shy of last season’s team who sent off eight seniors.
Olufson said the team will take little time off before kicking off the course toward next season.
“For this team to win 17 (games), I mean it’s pretty awesome knowing that they did it and they put the time in,” Olufson said. “We get them back and get them stronger and faster.”
Greenville defeated Spalding University 72-66 in the SLIAC tournament finals on Feb. 23 to advance to the National Collegiate Athletic Conference Div. III tournament. Greenville lost in the first round to George Fox University 85-53 on March 1.