PITTSBURG — To say Pittsburg State point guard Haydn Herlocker was clutch for the Gorilla women Saturday at John Lance Arena against the visiting Southwest Baptist Bearcats would be an understatement.
Down by nine points in the fourth quarter, the Gorillas rallied back to within one point with 16 seconds left in the game. The ball found Herlocker in the corner, with the Girard native drilling a triple with 8.7 seconds on the clock to put PSU up 76-74 with nine seconds to play. The Bearcats tied the game up on a baseline leaner by Dilonna Johnson to send the contest into overtime, where the Gorilla women prevailed 87-84.
"It's a huge win for our team to be able to fight back and never give up," Pitt State senior Cathy Brugman said. "It's huge for us to have a game like this where they go on a big run, but we respond. This win tonight was really big for us."
Herlocker’s clutch 3-pointer near the end of the fourth quarter was one of three last-second shots she made Saturday. She sank a half-court shot to end the first half and send PSU into the locker room tied at 42-all. Herlocker also sank a 3-pointer from the wing off an inbound play as time expired in the third quarter.
“It's about the team," Herlocker said. "At the end of the day, you can ask anyone on our team [and they will say] it doesn't matter who scored or who had the best stat line. We are just trying to get the W, and we did that tonight."
Herlocker finished the day with a career-high 17 points and team-high five assists in the Gorilla win.
Pitt State (12-4, 6-4 MIAA) had four players finish the game in double figures, with Brugman leading the way with 25 points on 9-of-16 shooting. She had a team-high nine rebounds.
Guard Mikaela Burgess had 21 points, making seven shots from the field, while Forward Kylie Gafford finished the win with 13 points and a game-high four blocks.
“Kylie was our defensive glue," Pitt State assistant coach Amanda Davied said. "She is our communicator and our talker. She did an outstanding job."
Johnson finished as the game’s leading scorer for Southern Baptist, scoring 27 points on 8-of-18 shooting. She was perfect from the free-throw line, making all eight of her attempts.
The Gorillas did heavy damage in the paint, outscoring the Bearcats 30-18 inside.
For the second time in as many games, the Pitt State women found themselves in a dogfight at the intermission on their home floor. Unlike the loss to Central Missouri on Thursday, the Gorillas were able to rally together late on the way to win a game which saw 17 ties and eight lead changes.
“Attitude is every thing. Positive energy can do a lot for your team," Davied said. "We try to talk a lot about getting up and getting energetic. Some plays we made on offense allowed us to get that energy going … They just wanted it badly."
Burgess highlighted the extra period when she knocked down a deep 3-pointer from the wing with less than two minutes to play to put PSU up 83-79 with momentum in hand.
Brugman put down three free throws in the final 20 seconds to seal the win for the Gorilla women.
Pitt State trailed much of the first half against the Bearcats, who came into the contest shooting near the 35-percent mark as a team to this point in the season. SBU played at a higher level than normal all game long, shooting 49 percent in the five periods of play.
“We were really focused on our defense," Brugman said. "We still gave up more points than we wanted. Teams shoot well, but it's on us. We can control that by pressing them more and playing better defense … The second half, we did a lot better playing team defense."
A Madison Northcutt free throw with 2:21 to play in the half gave Pitt State their first lead of the game since the 8:52 mark of the opening period.
Southwest Baptist responded, though, looking to head into the locker room with a three-point advantage.
Herlocker had other plans for her Gorillas as she launched a half-court shot which found the bottom of the net with time expiring to send the teams into the half tied at 42-all.
Pitt State is off for a week before matching up with rival Missouri Southern at 1:30 p.m. Jan. 16 at John Lance Arena.
“We really needed some positives to come out of this game," Davied said. "We're really excited we got this win … I think they're excited about getting some rest, and getting back to work."
Lucas Davis is the sports editor of the Pittsburg Morning Sun. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on twitter at @LDsportswriter.