Before the game on Saturday afternoon between the Indiana Wesleyan Wildcats and the Goshen Maple Leafs, Sam Hawk’s college career high was 13 points.That mark lasted less than 14 minutes.
The junior and Indianapolis native scored 13 of her team’s first 17 points, tallying 24 points on 7-of-11 shooting before the halftime intermission. Goshen trailed the top-ranked Wildcats by five points, 31-26, at halftime before Indiana Wesleyan pulled away and protected their spot in the NAIA coaches’ poll with a 68-45 victory at Gunden Gymnasium.
Senior center Krystal Stoneking scored 24 points to lead the Steve Brooks-coached Wildcats, whose 17-1 start to the season is the best since the 2007-08 team won its first 18 games.
The loss was painful in more ways than one for first-year head coach Stephanie Miller and the Maple Leafs. Goshen was unable to capitalize on losses by Mount Vernon Nazarene and Spring Arbor–a win would have propelled the Leafs into an eighth-place tie in the Mid-Central Conference standings. Meanwhile, Goshen lost a pair of starters to injury in the first half when first-year center Sierria Burlage and junior guard Jenna Rusmisel went down with injuries eleven minutes apart. Both players were taken to the training room for further treatment; neither returned to the gym.
With Goshen’s 12-player roster down two players, more of the offensive load fell to Hawk. The junior, who has played in all but three of Goshen’s games since arriving on campus in 2009, finished with 24 points–almost twice her previous career high–to lead the team. That total was Goshen’s highest single-player mark since 2011-graduate Erica Yost put up 31 points against Grace on Jan. 6, 2011.
First-year forward Jaime Stack led all players in the game with 12 rebounds; Hawk, picked up eight rebounds as Goshen won the battle for the boards 40-34. Stack also added 10 points, picking up her third double-double in 13 games this season.
Senior Ashley Brooks, the shortest starter in Indiana Wesleyan’s lineup at 5’7”, led the Wildcats with seven rebounds. Both teams were led in steals by Elkhart County natives: Stack, a Goshen native and a Fairfield High School graduate, had two for Goshen, while Elkhart native and Jimtown alumna Emma Stahl had six steals for Goshen.
After the halftime intermission, Indiana Wesleyan shot 50 percent from the floor to pull away and establish a one-game lead over Bethel in the MCC standings.
Saturday’s game featured the third top-25 opponent in five days for Goshen, after the Maple Leafs hosted No. 23 Marian University Tuesday night and No. 16 Grace College on Thursday.
Goshen was in action again last night, traveling to Huntington University to play the Foresters, who received votes in the NAIA Division II coaches’ poll this week. That game ended after the Record went to press. The Maple Leafs will play the team directly above them in the conference standings this weekend, as Spring Arbor brings its one-game lead on Goshen to Gunden Gymnasium Saturday for a 1 p.m. tip-off.