Randy Speer, The Circuit
Benedictine senior Jordan Kramer knows that her career is coming to a close. That’s why she is determined to leave every ounce of effort she has out on the court in the national tournament.
Kramer’s effort provided the difference in Benedictine’s 45-36 win over Campbellsville in the quarterfinals of the NAIA Division I national tournament.
Kramer checked in for the final minute and fifty-three second, with the Lady Ravens holding on to a three-point lead at 37-34 and had a hand in every play over the final two minutes.
After grabbing a defensive rebound, Kramer hit possibly the biggest shot of her career.
Double teamed and falling away from the basket, Kramer heaved a 20-footer as the shot clock was set to expire. It hit nothing but net.
“Being confident with a little bit of luck,” Kramer said on the shot that game the Lady Ravens some breathing room.
Kramer finished with a team high 16 points on 5 of 8 shooting from the field.
“She has got that look in her eye,” said Benedictine head coach Chad Folsom on his senior shooting guard. “She is playing with that fire, that passion. Hitting big shots and getting to the free throw line.”
Kramer then assisted sophomore Kristen Murphy on Benedictine’s next possession after the Lady Tigers drew within three points again.
Murphy recorded her second double double of the tournament and her career with 15 points and 11 rebounds.
Benedictine pulled away for the final time as Kramer went 4 of 4 from the charity strip after being fouled on a defensive rebound and then after securing steal with 14 seconds left.
Fittingly, after Campbellsville hoisted its final shot, the ball found its way into Kramer’s hands as the final horn sounded on the Lady Raven’s first ever quarterfinal appearance.
“Its pretty surreal still,” Kramer said. “It’s awesome we are in the final four, but we still have work to do. We are looking for a national championship.”
The Lady Ravens needed Kramer as fellow senior and leading scorer Chayla Rutledge was held scoreless. The last time the former All-Conference player of the year didn’t score was during her redshirt-freshman season in 2013 against Central Methodist on March 2.
“That just tells you what kind of team we have,” Folsom said on Rutledge not scoring. “We have multiple players that can step up and that’s the beauty of this team.”
Benedictine picked up where they left off on Friday to start the game, with sophomore Lexi Villegas knocked down a 3-pointer 27 seconds into the game. The Lady Ravens never looked back as they lead from tip to conclusion.
“They have worked so hard this season and they’ve had this goal: trying to get to the final four,” Folsom said. “They’ve been playing great basketball the last three games. I am proud of their effort and hard work.”
By the end of the first quarter, Benedictine held a 16-10 advantage.
“Our defense gave us the opportunity to win the game,” Folsom said. “We held them down in the thirty’s and really guarded. That’s been the key all along. We played together as a team and guarded.”
The Lady Ravens held the Lady Tigers to a 26.8 field goal percentage and its lowest scoring output of the year.
“This team wants it badly, that’s a key,” Folsom said. “That team that we played tonight, Campbellsville, did too. One of our keys going into the game was we have to get loose balls. That’s the team that wants it the most. Both teams were fighting, but I liked the way our team fought and didn’t back down and kept fighting the whole game.”
The majority of the 706 in attendance roared to life in the second half as Benedictine dominated, building its lead up to 25-15 with a 1:15 left in the half.
A pair of free throws by freshman LaRanda Thomas sent Benedictine into the intermission up 27-17.
The Lady Ravens were able to stretch their lead to 11 points on a sophomore Kristen Murphy 3-pointer with 7:15 left in the third quarter. It would be the only trey they made in the second half.
Campbellsville clawed their way back with a 9-0 run over the next three minutes to bring the deficit down to two. The Lady Tigers forced turnovers and clamped down on the defensive end.
“They definitely picked the pressure up up top, so getting that extra pass in was a little tougher,” Kramer said. “As the half went, we started to adjust to it a little better and started attacking the seams.”
Freshman Serena Parker sank a pair of free throws to stop the bleeding and gave Benedictine a 34-30 advantage heading into the final frame.
Campbellsville came within one point after a Lindsey Burd basket with 6:31 left in the fourth quarter. Burd lead the Lady Tigers with 16 points.
Benedictine’s answer came in the form of junior Ali Taff. The St. Joseph Christian product went coast to coast off a defense rebound to put the Lady Ravens up 37-34, setting the stage of Kramer’s late game heroics.
Benedictine will face a familiar foe in the semifinals of the national tournament.
Conference opponent Baker won its quarterfinal match-up with Lewis-Clark State 71-52, setting up a Heart rematch in the semifinals.
“We know a lot about them, they know a lot about us,” Folsom said on the match up. “That’ll be a real battle. Definitely shows what kind of conference we have.”
Benedictine finished third in the conference stands, with Baker in fourth. The teams split the regular season match up with both teams winning on their home court.
The Wildcats won the first contest 65-48 on January 20, then Benedictine came back from an eight-point deficit with a 1:44 left to win the February 17 game 51-48.