Free throws almost cost the Columbia College women’s basketball team a victory Saturday, but Charliss Ridley hit the two that mattered most.
In their 62-60 win against John Brown at the Arena at Southwell Complex, the Cougars shot only 52 percent from the line.
Ridley, though, made a pair from the line with 17 seconds left that gave Columbia College its first victory against an NAIA top-25 team in three tries.
Nancy Pierre, a John Brown forward, helped secure the win. She missed two open 3-pointers in the final minute, including one at the buzzer that would have won the game
The No. 19 Cougars improved to 10-4, while No. 24 John Brown fell to 6-3.
“We didn’t end as strong as we would have liked,” Columbia College coach Mike Davis said. “We were fortunate though.”
Ridley was the only Cougar to have success shooting free throws. She was 10-of-10 from the line while the rest of team shot a combined 4-for-17.
“Charliss is a 90-percent shooter from the line and she has great focus, so there is no one else we would have rather had at the line in that situation,” Davis said.
Ridley’s 20 points led Columbia College, which fell behind 9-4 early.
The Cougars missed five of their first six free-throw attempts and the Golden Eagle’s fast-paced offense flummoxed Columbia College.
“One of the things we talked about before the game was how much movement John Brown has in its offense,” guard Lisa Kowalewski said. “They are constantly doing on-the-ball picks and cuts trying to create mismatches.”
The Cougars made adjustments.
“We started to bump their cutters and not allow the penetration,” Ridley said. “Once we shut down the lanes, we knew we could crash the glass and get the rebounds.”
The Cougars’ ability to grab offensive rebounds was crucial in a 6-0 run that tied the game at 14. Forwards Rachel Davis and LeeAnn Fossum had back-to-back offensive rebounds leading to layups to even the score.
The Cougars had 10 second-chance points and limited John Brown to only three. The Cougars had 14 offensive rebounds to the Golden Eagles’ 10.
No team led by more than three points until midway through the second half, when Kowalewski gave Columbia College a six-point lead.
She single-handedly outscored the Golden Eagles 10-8 during a five-minute stretch and finished with 12 points.
“I’ve been struggling a lot with my shot a lot lately,” she said. “But after I made the first shot in that streak, one of the Ladies Men (the student cheering section) yelled ‘now you’re feeling it’ and it got my confidence up. After that, it became easy.”