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Webster Classics: 21-point comeback to secure home court for playoff tournament
The Webster women’s basketball team overcame their biggest deficit of the 2019-20 season. The win secured home-court advantage for the conference tournament.
Beginning in January 2020, the Webster women’s basketball team played 13 consecutive conference games prior to hosting Eureka College for the last home game of the season. Webster was 12-1 in those games, including a 20-point victory over Eureka the previous month.
A win in this game would secure Webster a share of the regular season title for the 2019-20 season. A Eureka loss would officially eliminate them from the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SLIAC) tournament.
Eureka jumped out to a 24-7 lead just over six minutes into the game.
Webster Head Coach Jordan Olufson said that the amount of Webster fouls was one of the big factors to the early deficit. Webster allowed Eureka to shoot 17 free throws in the first half. They would end up shooting 34 by the end of the game, making 29 of them. This was the most free throws Webster allowed a team to take all season.
“The great thing about playing pressure defense is that when you get steals, you get easy layups,” Olufson said. “But what we’ve figured out over the last 10-12 years of us doing this is, once you get a couple steals, everybody gets greedy. Then instead of being detailed and trapping, you start reaching.”
Webster was able to recover in the first quarter, thanks in big part to three three-pointers from Webster guard Lauryn Freeman. They would end the quarter trailing 28-20. Webster had only been trailing once after the first quarter in their previous 14 games. They trailed 17-13 on Feb. 6 to Fontbonne after the first quarter. They would go on to lose that game 67-58.
Eureka was in complete control of the second quarter, outscoring Webster 25-12. This made the score 53-32 going into halftime. This 21-point deficit was the largest Webster had been trailing at halftime all season.
“I think we were all starting to get a little nervous,” Freeman said. “Our original plan of running them over and winning by 20 plus points maybe wasn’t the goal anymore and at that point it was just about winning.”
Eureka traveled to Webster for this game with only six players. Webster had 10 different players enter the game. Olufson said this allowed his team to preserve energy because they had more time to rest.
“The pace that we play started to wear [Eureka’s players] down as the game went on,” Olufson said. “We knew that if we could get it within 10 by the end of the [third] quarter, we got a shot.”
Webster outscored Eureka 13-4 in the first four-and-a-half minutes of the third quarter, going on to win the quarter 28-15. The score going into the fourth quarter was 68-60 Eureka.
In 2015, the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) changed women’s basketball from two 20-minute halves to four 10-minute quarters. Webster had all the momentum in the third quarter and Olufson believes the quarter break was the only thing that stopped it.
“[The break between quarters] is basically a built-in timeout,” Olufson said. “Those breaks are lengthy and it allowed them to come out ready in that fourth quarter.”
Eureka scored 11 unanswered points to begin the fourth quarter, and held a 17-point lead with just over seven minutes left in the game.
Over the next six minutes, Webster chipped away at the lead thanks to big defensive stops and turning those into quick points. By the final minute, Webster was trailing by just one point.
Nobody scored in the next 35 seconds. Then, Eureka was attempting to make an inbound pass from right beneath the Webster basket. With the ball in flight, Webster guard Jaysea Morgan jumped and intercepted the pass in mid air while falling out of bounds. She managed to land on one foot in bounds, turn her body to keep the ball in bounds and pass it to Freeman. Freeman immediately tossed to forward Addison Buessink who put it straight through the hoop to give Webster a one-point lead with just 23 seconds left.
“I actually jumped in the air after I made that shot,” Buessink said. “My first instinct was that [Morgan] was out of bounds. Honestly, I didn’t even really shoot that ball, I just kind of threw it up because I still couldn’t believe that just happened.
This win gave Webster a share of the regular season SLIAC title. They would secure sole possession of the title after beating Iowa Wesleyan in their following game. This also secured home court for the SLIAC tournament. The year prior Webster had to travel to Greenville for the SLIAC tournament and lost in overtime to be eliminated. In this season, Webster was able to defeat Greenville and went on to win the SLIAC tournament in front of their home fans.
“It’s an advantage being at home,” Buessink said. “The crowd having your back and the adrenaline. We earned getting to have that for the tournament.”
Looking back on this game, Olufson considers it not just one of the best Webster women’s basketball moments of all time, but one of the best Webster sports moments of all time.