Despite loss, sophomore lifts Columbia College women's basketball team

Saturday, December 10, 2011 | 6:33 p.m. CST; updated 7:02 p.m. CST, Saturday, December 10, 2011
Columbia College sophomore Heather English drives towards the basket as University of the Cumberlands senior Haley Ratliff tries to stop her in the 4th quarter of their game Saturday at Columbia College.

COLUMBIA — Heather English hates fouling out. But with the Columbia College women's basketball team down by three points with less than a minute left Saturday at Southwell Complex, she did what she had to for her team.

"It doesn't feel good," English said. "But it happens, and I had to go get that."

With a player from University of Cumberlands holding the ball in an effort to run out the clock, English grabbed the player's arm, drawing her fifth foul.    

English got to that point by struggling in the first half with three quick fouls and just two points. While attempting a steal in the first half, a Patriots player head-butted English in the mouth, causing a bloody lip and giving English extra motivation. She opened the second half with a 3-pointer.

“First half she had foul trouble, but second half she knew she was going to have to put some points on the board and make some defensive plays, so she stepped up,” said senior Kirsti Wilkerson, who led Columbia College with 21 points.

After English's foul, Cumberlands, ranked No. 15 in the NAIA, made its free throws and went on to win 74-69 to improve to 10-1.

No. 20 Columbia College fell to 8-4, but with the Cougars' leading scorer and leading rebounder out for the season, English showed she could be depended on with 13 points.

"From having Kayla (Rice) and Amanda (Phillips) there, all of a sudden now it’s a 'we need you every second,'" said Cougars coach Mike Davis about losing the two seniors to injury. "Sometimes we forget she’s (English) just a sophomore that way.”

Davis and English both live in Boonville, and so Davis was able to follow English's basketball career as she grew up.

“It was great getting her over here," Davis said. "I’ve watched her since she was in junior high. She’s been a fun one to watch develop, and we’re glad to have her here.”

English will have to continue to develop quickly. The number of healthy and available Cougars players will decrease to seven soon. Junior Celeste Smith has announced that she plans to return to Australia because of family reasons and is likely to leave the team next semester.

The Cougars have a week off for finals and then they will be back on the court Dec. 19 at Ashford University in Clinton, Iowa.

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