It was a supercharged atmosphere at Southwell Complex on Saturday afternoon. There was a live band playing in the southwest corner of the gym. In a pregame ceremony, coach Mike Davis accepted a signed game ball from his 400th career victory, achieved in Monday’s win over Park (Mo.) University. The crowd was larger than usual. The women’s game was the first of a tripleheader at the arena, including the Columbia College men’s game and a girls high school game.
Once the Cougars took the court, however, the distractions disappeared. Junior guard Amber Lewellen found Danielle Riekeberg for a layup just 10 seconds into the game. It was a lead the Cougars would never relinquish in their 79-66 win over John Brown (Ark.) University.
Lewellen scored 12 points in the first seven minutes of the game. She made layups, short jump shots, free throws and a 3-pointer.
“It just came through the flow of the game,” she said. “I didn’t really know I was going to do that, but I felt confident.”
She only scored four points in the rest of the first half but spent that time working the ball around to her teammates instead of forcing up shots when they weren’t there.
“I tried to get us some good looks in the post,” she said, “because that’s where we knew we could do well.”
She ended the night with a career-high 26 points on 11-of-16 shooting and added six rebounds.
“Amber is starting to get very consistent,” Davis said. “She’s had her moments, but now she’s getting consistent. She’s a playmaker. Some kids, you have to set plays up for, but she can create on her own.”
After Lewellen’s scoring spree, John Brown fought back with a 13-3 run to narrow the Cougars’ lead to 29-28, with two minutes left in the first half. The game stayed close until midway through the second half, when senior Helen Ogunjimi came off the bench to spark Columbia College.
Ogunjimi scored eight straight points and grabbed five rebounds, including three off the offensive glass, in a five-minute span to extend Columbia College’s lead from four to nine.
“Helen came in and gave us a huge lift,” Davis said. “She’s a really dynamic individual. She has power and quickness and made a real difference on the boards.”
Lewellen, who was saddled with foul trouble in the second half, agreed.
“You can expect so much from her,” she said.
The Cougars clinched the victory by hitting 8-of-10 free throws in the final minute. The win moves Columbia College, ranked No. 20 in this week’s NAIA national poll, to 9-1 on the season. The Cougars travel to Shawnee, Okla., next Saturday to play against Oklahoma Baptist.