Given a chance from the free throw line to extend Wednesday's game with Fort Hays State another five minutes, Northwest Missouri State's Monique Stevens couldn't quite make it happen.
After getting fouled on a three-pointer by Katelyn Edwards with 1.7 seconds left, Stevens calmly made the first two free throws, but after a time out, missed the third one just long that would've tied the game.
Fort Hays State snatched the rebound, and was able to hang on for a 54-53 win over the sliding Bearcats at Bearcat Arena.
This was Northwest's fourth straight loss and second to Fort Hays State in the last seven days. After being as many as six-over .500, the Bearcats (11-11, 5-9) are now right at .500 for the first time all year.
"Obviously, a tough loss," said Northwest Missouri State head coach Mark Kellogg. "Maybe the toughest or at least one of the toughest we've had this year. It's disappointing we didn't find a way. We had some opportunities to do that. We just didn't make the big play, get the big stop. It never comes down to the last free throw."
Stevens, a 63 percent free throw shooter, had made seven of her first eight attempts before missing the last one.
Her concentration might have been thrown off from having to sit during a timeout called by Fort Hays State coach Tony Hobson.
It was the final one he had left in regulation, and certainly came in handy.
"The only thing I was trying to decide was to do it between the first and second or the second and third," said Hobson. "The first two looked like pretty nice strokes and went in. I just know if you sit there and make two in a row, the third one is easier. The first one is always the hardest free throw to make. Fortunately for us, she missed it."
The Stevens miss took Edwards off the hook for a bad foul—her fifth of the game—and prevented Fort Hays State (17-5, 9-5) from having to play an overtime session without her.
Northwest would've welcomed that scenario.
"We said in the last timeout, if we get this thing to overtime we would feel pretty good about it," said Kellogg. "Especially being down three and the way it would've happened. We would've felt really good about going to overtime. Obviously, it didn't work out that way."
Despite shooting 7-27 in the second half, Northwest battled back from a six-point deficit with 8:44 left to take a 49-46 lead—its largest of the game.
The Bearcats lost momentum and the lead over the next two-plus minutes when the Tigers scored six straight points. This followed a five minute stretch when they scored just two and turned it over on consecutive inbound passes.
Page 2 of 3 - The decisive run began with an offensive rebound putback by Tera Ingalsbe. The Tigers grabbed the lead for good 50-49 on a turnaround shot by Edwards in the paint. This was set up by a Kate Lehman rejection of a driving Tember Schechinger—her fourth of the game.
Maggie Marnin promptly missed a hook shot that would've given Northwest the lead. The Tigers scored again on an elbow jumper from Ingalsbe to lead 52-49 with 1:05 left. The two late hoops accounted for four of her eight points.
Northwest made it a one-point game again on a post feed from Marnin to Annie Mathews with 40 seconds to play.
On Fort Hays State's next trip, point guard Kaiameka Brown was forced to take a runner in traffic at the end of the clock. The ball rimmed out, but Kelsie Sorenson grabbed the offensive rebound—Fort Hays State's ninth of the half and 13th of the game.
After another timeout, the Bearcats fouled Traci Keyser with 7.1 seconds left and she made both ends of a one-and-one to give the Tigers a 54-51 lead.
"They had three more offensive rebounds and one less turnover," said Kellogg. "That's four extra possessions they had. We'd love four extra possessions right now to see if we can go score one point. Our Achilles heel all year has been turnovers and offensive rebounds."
Northwest turned it over 18 times in the game, shot only 16-52 (30.8 percent) and finished right at 53 points for the third game in a row.
Individually, none of the Bearcats had a particularly good game.
Stevens was the high scorer with 12 points and Marnin had 11. The 6-3 center was only 3-11 from the field and her shot rejected three times in the second half by Lehman.
Annie Mathews and Meridee Scott each had eight points. All of Scott's production came in the first half.
"We need four, five or six to play great and we obviously didn't get enough of them," said Kellogg.
Fort Hays State also had a tough time offensively, finishing 17-54 (31.5 percent) and 2-15 (13.3 percent) from three. The Tigers scored exactly one-third of their points at the foul line where they finished 18-23 (78.3 percent).
Lehman led all scorers in the game with 14 points and pulled down 10 rebounds for a double-double. She was defended well in the second half by Marnin, scoring just one point after going 4-4 with 13 points in the first half.
Edwards, Fort Hays State's second leading scorer, was plagued by foul trouble throughout and scored just nine points, four below her average.
Keyser's late free throws put her at 10. She hit the team's only two three-pointers on nine attempts.
Page 3 of 3 - "We held everybody in check," said Kellogg. "We just didn't find a way to win and that's the disappointing part. The game plan worked. We didn't have any rhythm offensively and that's disappointing."
Fort Hays State held the lead for most of the game. Its largest was nine in the first half and came on a Keyser three with 8:12 left.
The Bearcats pulled within two, fell behind by eight and got it to 27-24 at the half on a Scott three with 24 seconds left.
Keyser opened the second half with a three, but Stevens answered with one back to make it 30-27 .
It stayed a one possession game either way until Fort Hays State scored seven straight to open up a 42-36 lead.
Down by six still, Northwest used an 11-2 run to lead 49-46.