Emporia State senior Jessica Wayne did something on Friday night no Lady Hornet had done before her.
As is turned out, that special kind of night was what ESU needed to thwart a comeback by its arch-rival.
The Lady Hornets overcame a second-half push by Washburn, defeating the Ichabods by a 60-52 margin in a non-conference affair at White Auditorium.
“I’m just super-proud of our players,” ESU Head Coach Toby Wynn said. “It felt like they put a lot into today’s game, just preparing for the game. They were really focused in practice this week getting ready ... they’re the ones that had to go out and execute everything we were trying to do.
Defensively, early on for sure, offensively I think we just kind of made enough plays to score more points ... and win. Our players were very motivated and I’m just happy for them, proud of them.
That defense was primarily fueled by the reigning MIAA Defensive Player of the Year.
Wayne set a new single-game school record with 11 steals — including three in less than a minute’s span in the second quarter — adding a season-high 11 rebounds and tying her season-high with 18 points scored.
“Jess was just exceptional tonight,” Wynn said. “She was phenomenal. You could tell from the tip she was very motivated, very ready to play the game tonight. What she was doing defensively was just incredible. I think she showed everybody why she was the MIAA Defensive Player of the Year, just her ability to be able to impact the game in the manner in which she impacted it. I think the thing that stood out the most was she really went in and battled for rebounds tonight. She got seven rebounds a game a year ago and she’d only been getting four a game so far. I think it showed just how important it is for us to have her go after those rebounds.
“Defensively what she does is just amazing.”
Wayne had six takeaways in the first half and added three more in the third quarter. Her record-tying 10th came with 4:30 left to play and she snagged her record 11th just before the clock dropped into the final two-minute mark.
“It’s amazing,” senior Mollie Mounsey said. “I wish I had hands like her. She did everything we needed her to do tonight.”
Mounsey did quite a bit herself, including knocking down two of her team’s biggest buckets. She sank a go-ahead layup with 7:15 to play that gave ESU the lead for good, adding a 3-pointer little more than a minute later, boosting ESU’s advantage to three possessions.
It made for a dramatic conclusion after the two teams combined for just 17 points in the first quarter and showed very little spark from either team on the offensive end.
“I think in a rivalry game like this, both teams put so much into it, both teams are so excited and ready to play, sometimes you go out and (try) so hard that the game just isn’t smooth and it isn’t fun to watch,” Wynn said. “It’s just a battle where you have to figure things out. I thought we had a chance at the end of the second quarter to really get some separation (but) I don’t think we scored (in) the last four minutes of the second quarter.”
After Wayne’s second steal-and-score in a row, Washburn closed out the first half with a last-second 3-pointer by Hunter Bentley. ESU built its lead back to 14 in the third, but the Ichabods had cut it down to a single tally by the start of the fourth. A 3-pointer from Irene Sanz put the Ichabods in front, 39-37. But Wayne tied it up after getting an offensive rebound. A Washburn turnover gave the ball back to ESU, where Daley Handy sank a jumper to put ESU in front.
The Ichabods knotted the score once more before Mounsey, Wayne and Morgan Laudan scored 11 of the game’s next 13 points.
“For them to get the lead back, (then) our players to be able to buckle down a little bit at that point and fight back and tie it and get the lead and push on and win the game, I think that says a lot about our players, their fight and will, their want and desire,” Wynn said.
ESU improved to 5-2 heading into MIAA play next week while Washburn dropped to 3-3.
Though Wayne had taken part in the final five games of a 12-game winning streak over Washburn earlier in her career, the Lady Hornets had dropped their previous three meetings with the Ichabods, including a double-overtime gut-wrencher last season.
“Being a senior, getting to play them one more time at home ... I was really excited to play them again here,” Wayne said. “It was just a great feeling that we came out with a win.”