The Missouri Valley College women's basketball team was unable to gain ground in the Heart of America Conference race Saturday, losing a 63-60 home contest against Evangel.
After leading by as many as seven points during the first half, the Lady Vikings trailed by six at halftime and never quite caught up -- despite a late flurry which got them to within a bucket.
After three lead changes in the early going, Valley got four points each from seniors Nicole Allison and Bonnie Johnson during an 8-1 run which put it ahead by six points. However, the Lady Crusaders closed the half with a 19-6 surge, with sophomore Brianna Mingus making two buckets and freshman Kelsie Hargus scoring five points on two free throws and a perimeter jumper.
Senior Theresa Gittens began the second half with two charity shots and Johnson's stick-back and an Allison lay-up closed the margin to a point. Evangel answered with two freebies and a field goal by sophomore Katie Burger, with freshman Caitlin Russell's bomb spreading the gap to 50-43 midway through the period.
Trailing by nine points with under three minutes remaining, the Lady Vikings threatened.
Gittens and senior Holly Siverling hit, but Mingus answered with a conventional three-point play. Junior Ashley Sequeira blocked a shot and scored to slice the deficit to five points, but Russell sank two from the stripe.
A free throw from Johnson and two by Gittens, followed by sophomore Jordan Walker's jumper, cut the margin to two points with under 10 seconds remaining. Mingus made one of two with only two seconds to go, but Valley couldn't get off a potential game-tying shot.
Mingus had 20 points and four steals for Evangel (5-9, 2-4 HAAC), which has beaten the Lady Vikings in 10 of their last 11 meetings.
Valley (7-7, 4-4) was topped by Johnson's 24 points and 10 rebounds.
The Vikings were hoping to shock another leader in the league men's standings, as they had done in their previous home game with a 79-78 upset of No. 1 MidAmerica Nazarene, but seventh-ranked Evangel pulled away for an 84-66 decision.
The Vikings were down by nine points during the first half when they staged a 22-10 run -- getting two treys from senior Jay Elam, one each by junior Caleb Moon and senior Boman Mullings, and three-point plays from junior Craig Jones and Mullings.
Over the next 10 minutes, stretching into the second half, the Crusaders buried six three-pointers -- four by junior Jackson Capel -- for a 30-13 binge to give them a 14-point lead. Valley was unable to get the deficit into single digits again.
Capel had 30 points and junior Shane Nicholson dished out 14 assists for Evangel (13-3, 6-0).
Mullings' 21 points and six assists were high for the Vikings (3-15, 3-4).
Both Valley teams are on the road today, the men at HAAC rival Culver-Stockton and the Lady Vikings with a rematch against defending NAIA Division II champion College of the Ozarks.