A big second half by visiting University Saint Francis (Ill.) spoiled No. 13 Purdue University Calumet’s final regular season game and handed the Peregrines a 91-86 loss Saturday at the Fitness and Recreation Center.
Purdue Calumet (19-7, 11-5 Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference) dropped its fourth straight home game in the setback, while the visiting Fighting Saints (14-14, 10-5) continued to make their charge, as USF has won four in a row.
With one regular league game remaining, the CCAC South Division-leading Peregrines (11-5) remain a half game up on Olivet Nazarene (10-5) and St. Francis (10-5). The Saints and Tigers each have two league games left as the three squads battle for a first-round bye (top two teams) in the upcoming CCAC Tournament.
Senior Kami Graber (Nashville, Ind./Brown County) led the Peregrines with a season-high 27 points on 7 of 13 shooting, including a 13-for-14 performance from the free throw line. Junior Jada Buggs (Elklhart, Ind./Elkhart Memorial) added 21 points and seven rebounds, sophomore Cassidy Deno (Otterbein, Ind./Benton Central) had 13 points and freshman Katie Wampler (Scottsburg, Ind./Scottsburg) chipped in a career-high 12 points in the losing effort.
Purdue Calumet led by as many as 13, as the Peregrines used a 53.3 percent shooting performance in the first half to take a 46-33 lead heading into the break. Graber scored 16 of her 27 in the first half and Buggs and Deno each had 10 each in the first 20 minutes.
The Saints, however, didn’t go away in the second frame. With Purdue Calumet up 12, 52-40, with 17:06 to play, USF would go on a 12-5 run over the next four minutes to cut the lead to five, 57-52, at the 13:37 mark. The Peregrines were able to push that lead to seven on multiple occasions until the 7:44 mark, when St. Francis – powered by the NAIA’s leading scorer Katie Gonnering’s ability to get to the free throw line – began to make its move.
With the game tied at 79-all with 3:24 to play, Saints used four straight free throws by Christina Ekhomu and Kaitlyn Ray to build a three-point lead with 1:55 left. A Peregrine turnover that led to a Leah Avery triple pushed that lead to six, and the Peregrines were unable to answer down the stretch until Sammy Dillman’s 3-pointer as time expired.
St. Francis forced the Peregrines into a game-high 23 turnovers which the Saints turned into 30 points, despite Purdue Calumet’s 35-29 advantage on the glass and in the paint (34-32).
Purdue Calumet finished the game shooting 51 percent (25 of 49) compared to 47.5 percent for the Saints (29 of 61), who shot a blistering 56.3 percent in the second half.
The Peregrines were nearly flawless at the line, making 32 of 36 attempts (88.9 percent), while USF shot 71.9 percent (23 of 32).
Gonnering led the Saints with 29 points and nine boards and Ray added 22 points, including a 6 of 7 showing from behind the arc.
The Peregrines wrap up the regular season Wednesday, Feb. 18, when they travel to Whiting, Ind., for a 5 p.m. contest against Calumet College of St. Joseph.