Kaitlynn Fratz had heard her coach plead with the sophomore guard to take the big shot at crunch time.
Fratz hit plenty of pivotal shots while amassing 24 points on Saturday afternoon at the Sports Center.
None was bigger than Fratz’s 3-pointer with 37.6 seconds left in a tie game with West Virginia Wesleyan.
“Coach just kept telling me the last couple minutes to be a gamer, be a gamer,” Fratz said of instructions from UPJ coach Sasha Palmer. “So, I knew someone had to take that big shot. I was waiting for that perfect opportunity. I found it and I took it.”
The 3-pointer and a later free throw by Fratz sealed the Lady Cats’ dramatic 57-53 victory over West Virginia Wesleyan.
UPJ has won six of its last seven games and is 10-7 overall, 8-6 in the WVIAC.
“With six freshmen and three sophomores on the squad it’s going to take a while,” Palmer said of the UPJ’s recent surge. “Six of our seven losses are by five points or less.
“It’s just learning in games like this how to beat a team and how to become that veteran team and win down the stretch, and have that killer instinct.”
West Virginia Wesleyan (6-10, 5-8) built a 10-point first-half advantage on Danesha Richardson’s basket to make it 16-6 at 13:35.
But the Lady Cats fought back to tie it at 18-all on a Kelsey Sleighter 3-pointer four minutes later.
The teams were tied at 26 at halftime.
“They came at us with a couple things and threw some stuff at us,” said Fratz, who also had four assists. “I think that we kept our composure for the most part. We kept our intensity.”
UPJ started the second half strong, building a 37-27 lead after Rachel Johnson’s layup at 16:22.
But the Cats never could get comfortable. West Virginia Wesleyan, led by Richardson (21 points, 14 rebounds) and Brittany Maxey (16 points, 13 rebounds) eventually tied the game at 53 with 1:36 left.
Maxey hit a crucial 3-pointer after the Bobcats inbounded the ball with only 4 seconds on the shot clock after a timeout. That pulled the visitors within a point, and Richardson’s one free throw tied it.
“Maxey hit a huge shot,” Fratz said. “We just said it was all right. We kept playing and got the win.”
Thanks largely to Fratz’s own huge shot.
“This team shut her down the last game,” Palmer said. “She looked at it as a challenge. I keep telling her she’s our scorer and she’s got to be a gamer down the stretch. She hit that big 3 at the end and that’s what we need out of her.”