(Sugar Grove, IL) – Despite a monumental effort by Essence Rayford, Waubonsee Community College women's basketball team fell just short in a 77-75 loss to Milwaukee Area (WI) Technical College on Tuesday evening. The Chiefs trailed by as many as 18 points early in the second quarter before battling back behind Rayford's school-record tying 40-point performance. However, a pair of free throws by the Stormers (5-2) with only four ticks left on the clock turned out to be the difference in the game. Waubonsee (5-4) then ran out of time as Rayford was unable to get off a shot in traffic before the final buzzer.
Playing without All-American candidate Katie Beebe, sidelined with an illness, the Chiefs struggled mightily at the outset. Milwaukee led 9-0 before Rayford got the Chiefs on the scoreboard with a driving lay-up four minutes into the game. It turned out to be Waubonsee's only made basket of the quarter as the Chiefs shot 1 for 18 (6 percent) from the field. Allison Ryan closed out the Chiefs' miserable first quarter with a pair of free throw with less than a second remaining to make it 17-4 after ten minutes of action.
Waubonsee's offense got on track in the second quarter going 8 for 19 (42 percent) as the Chiefs got the deficit down to single digits 34-25 at the break. Waubonsee, which never led in the entire game, clawed its way to within a point at 40-39 with four minutes left in the third quarter. The teams traded baskets after that with the Stormers eventually taking a 51-47 lead into the fourth quarter. Milwaukee then started the final period with a 5-0 run, and appeared to put the game away by building a 13-point lead (66-53) with four minutes left.
They still led by double-digits at 70-60 with 2:35 to go when the Chiefs began mounting a frantic comeback. In the span of a less than a minute Rayford nailed a three-pointer, made a steal and converted a three-point play with a lay-up and free throw, and stole the ball again and knocked down a short jumper to suddenly make it only a two-point deficit. The final two nail-biting minutes were punctuated by a game-tying basket by Tatyanna Smith with just 0:10 left, who got the ball right under the basket after it pin-balled off a couple Milwaukee defenders. On the ensuing possession the Chiefs' Evelyn Martin was called for a blocking foul, which could have gone either way, and Milwaukee's Jasmine Malone calmly sank both free throws with only 0:04.3 remaining. Without any time outs left, Rayford took the inbounds pass and raced up the floor. The Chiefs' speedy point guard ran into a wall of defenders 10-feet from the rim, but was unable to get off a legitimate shot or draw a foul as the buzzer sounded.
Despite the absence of Beebe, who currently leads the nation in rebounding and blocked shots, the Chiefs still out rebounded the Stormers 56-42 for the game. However, Milwaukee finished with four more made free throws (18 of 29) than the Chiefs (14 of 22), and shot 44 percent (28 of 63) from the field compared to 36 percent (29 of 80) for Waubonsee.
Rayford's 40-point effort tied the program's single-game mark for points set by Brenda Morris in 1997. The sophomore guard also handed out four assists and made five steals in the contest. Martin, one of three players who just joined the team after competing for Waubonsee's volleyball squad at the NJCAA Division II National Tournament, posted a double-double in her first game with 15 points and 14 rebounds. Melia Perry chipped in with eight boards, Riane Tomsa recorded a pair of steals, and Alyssa Gittins and Katy Shawke each hauled down six rebounds. The Chiefs are in action again this coming Saturday, December 7 when they host Carl Sandburg College starting at 1:00 p.m. in Erickson Hall.