COLUMBIA — Three months ago, Ashley Fisher wasn't even on the roster of the Columbia College women's basketball team. Monday night, the Cougars called on her to attempt the game-tying shot in the American Midwest Conference tournament final.
With 26 seconds on the clock and his team down by three points, Cougars coach Mike Davis called a timeout to draw one final play.
On another night, the ball might have gone to Heather English or Airelle Eldridge, the team's leading scorers. With both players struggling Monday night, the duty fell to Fisher, who had already scored 15 points.
On the in-bounds play, Fisher's shot from the right corner ricocheted off the rim and went out of bounds. William Woods scored on its next possession, sealing a 72-67 victory and an automatic bid to the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics championship tournament.
After a season in which the Cougars won the AMC regular-season title despite losing their two best players to season-ending leg injuries during nonconference play, their fate is up in the air. Columbia College, ranked No. 24 in the NAIA entering Monday night's game at the Arena of Southwell Complex, will have to wait until Wednesday to see whether it receives an at-large bid to the 32-team tournament.
Fisher played for the Cougars last year and earned an All-AMC honorable mention as a freshman, but decided to quit basketball and enroll at MU at the end of the season.
Fisher still might be at MU if it weren't for the injuries that depleted Columbia College's roster.
"I was doing my thing over at Mizzou, but as they had more and more injuries, their numbers were diminishing pretty quickly," Fisher said. "I felt a pretty strong pull even before Coach Davis called me to come back over here and help out."
After rejoining the team for conference play, she went on to average 12.6 points a game as one of only two players coming off the bench.
Injuries may have been a theme of the Cougars' season, but their coach refused to blame them for Monday night's loss.
"It's our own doing," Davis said after the game. "Don't feel sorry for us. Don't say, 'Oh, poor Columbia, they have seven players.' That hasn't been our attitude all year. Our issues tonight were self-inflicted."
While Davis was most unhappy with his team's defensive effort, the offense was frustrated. English and Eldridge were both held scoreless in the first half. English finished with six points on 2-for-9 shooting, and Eldridge went 3-for-19 to score eight.
"I thought Airelle got going in the second half," Davis said. "Heather never did, and we need everyone going. We don't have the luxury of not having someone rolling."
English, a sophomore, was named AMC Player of the Year after the game, but was somber after the loss.
"It's a great honor, but I wish we could've pulled it out," she said. "I obviously didn't play my game."
The team was led by Fisher and Julie Teeple, who pulled in a double-double with 18 points and 16 rebounds.
In addition to English, Teeple was named to the All-AMC team and Eldridge received an honorable mention. Davis won Coach of the Year for the seventh time in his 11 seasons at Columbia College.
For now, the honors are overshadowed by the Cougars' inability to clinch an automatic bid to the national tournament.
"Right now with the loss, you look back and you think what if," Teeple said. "'What if we would have made this basket? What if we would have gotten this rebound?'
"Now we just have to sit back and wait."