Jessica King’s blocked shot sealed it.
On a night where Ottawa led all but four minutes and 51 seconds in the second half, the senior forward made a play on the last defensive possession for the Lady Braves basketball team that ensured a win on their home court. With her team up by two, King blocked a shot by Park’s Kiana Smith with three seconds left Tuesday inside Wilson Field House in Ottawa. After securing the ball, she was fouled and sent to the line where she hit both free throws with two seconds left to ice a 61-57 win over Park University.
Ottawa University’s victory came in an incredibly close contest. Neither team built a double digit lead throughout the 40 minutes of game time.
When it came down to the final possession, the Ottawa women told their head coach Bruce Tate they wanted to play a zone defense, King said.
“We all got into our zone positions,” she said. “As we are lining up we are telling each other to talk no matter where you are at on the floor. All I know is I heard somebody yell ‘baseline drive,’ and I just went out there, and that’s what it was. It felt really crazy. It could have just as easily been a foul, but we pulled it out. We are a young team, but we are close-knit.”
The young team got a big boost by senior leaders against Park. King led all scorers with 16 points. Fellow senior teammate Leslie Speer had 13 points, and Jenna Kramer, sophomore guard, had 12 points.
Now at 2-2, the Lady Braves look ahead to the Tiger Classic hosted at Doane University in Crete, Nebraska. OU plays 6 p.m. Friday against No. 20 Hastings College, and 3:30 p.m. Saturday against Doane.
With conference play beginning next week, King said that the team is still trying to find chemistry between the upperclassmen and underclassmen. The most important thing is that they are a tight-knit group on and off the court, she said.
“When things are tough on the court, I think that does something to pull us more together,” she said. “We are really good about not getting frustrated with each other, and really good about picking each other up off the floor.
“It all started in practice and preseason — being able to have tough conversations, being able to criticize one another in a positive manner and being able to be constructive and understanding about everything. When I was an underclassman, I had nine or 10 seniors, and all of them took care of me. They did such a good job integrating me into the basketball group that I just want to do the same thing for all of these girls, and I know Leslie [Speer] is on the same page as me. We also have a really great group of sophomore girls.”