FORT WAYNE – The object of Saint Francis coach Gary Andrews’ postgame affection was Cougars senior forward Myqueisha Bratton.
“When she plays like that, we’re really good,” he said.
Which calls for a closer inspection of “like that.”
“Like that” included 22 points, seven rebounds, four steals. Her 10 consecutive points over a three-minute span in the second half helped the Cougars hold offGrace 72-62 in Tuesday’s MCC tournament opener at the Hutzell Center.
Saint Francis lost to Grace by 16 points 11 days ago.
“We had the motivation that we played really bad, and they kind of rubbed it in our face – not in a bad way – but they dominated us,” Andrews recalled of the 57-41 home loss. “We were really motivated. We lose (Tuesday), we’re done. It’s desperation a little bit, too.”
Saint Francis (19-12) plays again Friday in the semifinals at top-seeded and MCC regular champion Indiana Wesleyan (29-2), which is also the No 1-ranked team in NAIA Division II. The Cougars have lost to Indiana Wesleyan, 73-62 and 74-59.
Riddled by injuries, Saint Francis shuttled seven players in and out of Tuesday’s game.
“It’s been tough,” Bratton said. “Once we had six players down. … We’ve got to tough it up. Nobody’s going to feel sorry for us.”
Hanging on to a 58-43 lead, Bratton began her one-woman show with a driving basket from the right baseline. She scored out front in traffic, hit a bucket off an Amanda Pedro assist, then finished it off with back-to-back layups off steals less than a minute apart.
“I just look at where they’re throwing it and just go for it,” Bratton said. “I know they want (No.) 25 (Jauneice Jackson) to get the ball, so I just anticipated every pass and got the steal.”
Grace (18-13) trailed 62-52 with 3:24 left, but got close with seven unanswered points, four coming on free throws when Meghan Prible was called for her fifth foul, then was given a technical.
But Saint Francis clamped down defensively, then countered with seven consecutive free throws from Bratton and fellow senior Kayla Mullins, who finished with 17 points. Pedro added 10 points.
Hayley Cashier led Grace with 16 points.
Courtney Baker scored 19 points as the third-seeded Foresters defeated sixth-seeded Marian 69-65. Kelsey Green and Allison Greene scored 15 points.
Huntington (20-9) is at second-seeded Bethel at 7 p.m. Friday.