This week's NAIA Div. I Women's Basketball Game of the Week presented by Stretch Internet lived up to the billing as the matchup between long-time rivals and NAIA top 15 programs went down to the wire on Saturday afternoon in the Ralph Nolan Gymnasium.
In the end, the difference in the outcome was two free throws by No. 10 Baker University (22-4, 20-2 Heart) with three seconds left to play as they hung on for a 64-62 win over the No. 12-ranked Raven Women.
After trading turnovers, Benedictine (20-6, 19-3 Heart) had one last chance to pull even or secure the win but a corner 3-pointer from Haylee Beard at the buzzer rimmed out and allowed Baker to avoid the Ravens upset bid.
The Ravens trailed once in the first quarter before taking a 19-15 lead into the second where they were able to pull ahead by as much as seven points before a buzzer-beater by Baker sent the game into halftime with a 34-32 lead
Trailing 40-39 midway through the third quarter, the Wildcats used a 11-2 run to erase the Ravens' lead and pull ahead by as much as eight points. Four free throws in the final minute of the quarter sent the game into its final two minutes with the Wildcats in front, 50-46.
The fourth quarter went back and forth as the two teams battled through two ties and six lead changes. The Wildcats led by as much as four points inside the first four minutes of the quarter while the Ravens largest lead in the fourth was two, 62-60, with 90 seconds left to play to set up the tightly contested finish.
The two teams went a combined 9 of 25 from the floor in the fourth quarter while the Ravens caught up at the charity stripe as the finished the second half 10 of 14 at the free throw line.
Serena Parker led the Ravens in scoring with a game-high 20 points. Ali Taff and Kristen Murphy each added 11 points while Lexie Villegas led the team in rebounding with 12. Beard finished the game as the team-leader in assists, dealing out five of the Ravens 14 assists.
Baker finished the game at 41.7 percent from the floor while Benedictine finished at 34.6. The Ravens scored 20 points off of 16 Wildcat turnovers, while Baker held the advantage in second-chance points with a 14-6 lead. The Wildcats took the rebounding battle as they outrebounded the Ravens, 40-36, marking just the third time in 26 games that the Ravens were outrebounded by their opponents.
The Ravens return to the road for their next two as they enter the home stretch of the Heart schedule. They travel to Des Moines, Iowa, for a 5:30 p.m. game on Thursday against Grand View University before heading up to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, for 2 p.m. game on Saturday. They return home on Feb. 22 for their final regular-season home game as they host William Penn University.
With the win, the Wildcats take over sole possession of first place in the Heart standings. Benedictine moves to second with a 4.5 game lead over the rest of the conference.