With freshman Camille Evans dribbling outside the 3-point arc, Missouri Western head coach Candi Whitaker still had her arm raised, signaling for her point guard to wait as the clock ticked down.
Evans prematurely drove the lane, only to split the Roger State defense and lay in the game-winning basket with four seconds remaining, capping an 18-point comeback for an 83-81 win Thursday at the Claremore Expo Center.
“That’s what we wanted. They really put a lot of pressure on her and I thought she handled that well,” Whitaker said. “She went a little bit earlier than I wanted, but a fantastic play, just big time.”
Playing in her first collegiate game, Evans, a product of F.L. Schlagle in Kansas City, Kansas, scored all 18 of her points in the second half, adding 10 rebounds and six assists to complete a debut double-double.
She made 8 of 9 shots on the night, including two baskets and an assist in the final two minutes.
“I knew Camille was gonna be talented and good. She does those things everyday in practice,” Whitaker said. “She earned the starting spot.
“For her to take over down the stretch, I didn’t know she would do that. What courage that takes.”
After jumping ahead 5-0, the Griffons fell into a 31-13 deficit early in the second quarter. Western (1-0) would climb back within seven points on a layup by starting freshmen forward Mary Fultz, but Rogers State (0-1) led 45-33 at half.
“I was a little nervous and it showed in the first half, not just for me. We have a really young team,” Evans said. “It was just a matter of trusting our coaches during halftime and what they said to us, just executing that.”
Western regained the lead for the first time with 2:35 to play in the third on a jumper by Mychaell Gray only to fall behind again by six. Evans beat the buzzer on a layup to end the quarter down 61-59.
Western trailed by as much as 7 with 6:08 to play, but a layup by junior college transfer Asia McCoy tied the game at 77 with 11:15 to play.
After two Rogers free throws, Fultz tied the game with a jumper, and an assist from Evans to McCoy led to a two-point lead with 23 seconds remaining.
With the game tied at 81, Western called timeout with 15 seconds to play. The result saw Evans end her first collegiate game as a last-second winner.
“The heat was on and I knew she was coming,” Evans said. “I was supposed to wait for the screen and I went early anyway, just trusted myself to make it.”
Fultz finished with 18 points on 7-of-18 shooting and seven rebounds in her collegiate debut, playing a team-high 30 minutes. Sophomore Logan Hughes added 12 points off the bench while senior Simone Rodney’s first start culminated in seven points, five rebounds and three assists.
The Griffons made 19 of 35 shots in the second half after going 10-for-30 in the opening 20 minutes.
Missouri Western is back in action at 1 p.m. Saturday at Northeastern State.