The NAIA No. 7 Hastings College women's basketball team received a little luck during its week off when the top team in the Great Plains Athletic Conference, No. 2-rated Northwestern, was upset Wednesday by Mount Marty.
That loss from the Lancers, who have just three wins this season, dropped the Red Raiders into a tie for first with the Broncos in the conference standings.
But Hastings College needed a little more fortune against Dordt on Saturday to avoid the same fate.
The Defenders (11-13, 4-11) overcame a 13-point deficit in the second half and nearly sent the game into overtime, but Jamie Kok's 3-point shot at the buzzer hit off the front of the rim, and Hastings held on for a tougher-than-expected 65-62 win at Lynn Farrell Arena.
"Obviously, you're going to get everybody's best effort. Dordt played with great energy and they came after us," said HC head coach Carrie Hofstetter. "It's one of those things where we're going to get everybody's best shot."
The win boosts the Broncos' winning streak to 15 games and their record to 21-2 overall, 12-2 in the conference.
"It is what it is," Hofstetter said. "We don't talk about the 15 in a row."
Especially after a near upset.
The Broncos' offense had trouble getting the ball inside the post. Laurel Zwiener finished with just seven points for only half her average, meaning they had to find production elsewhere.
Jamie Van Kirk stepped in and provided 25 points thanks to a 5-of-8 mark from behind the 3-point line. More often than naught, a triple by Van Kirk assisted HC out of an offensive slump.
Inability to make free throws only added to the Broncos' scoring woes, as the team finished 11-of-21 for the game from the charity stripe. The 65-point tally was HC's third-lowest scoring output of the year.
The Broncos' offense looked to be off to a big start in the first half, going on a 12-0 run before Dordt finally got on the scoreboard with 14:39 left in the first half. But a 12-2 response from the Defenders cut the Broncos' early advantage down to one at 16-15 with under eight minutes before half.
Van Kirk and Halley Samuelson connected on a pair of 3-pointers in consecutive possessions to put the Broncos back in front 34-22, and the home side led by 10 at half.
The second half saw the Broncos struggle offensively out of the gate. The team missed its first four shots and didn't get a bucket until a Sierra Williamson free throw nearly 4 1/2 minutes in.
The Defenders were able to get the score to within five, 35-30, but Hastings College answered with an 8-0 to take its biggest lead of the game at 43-30.
Kayla Broekhuis hit a 3-pointer and Kok completed a traditional 3-point play in back-to-back offensive possessions for Dordt to help the visitors get back to within five of HC.
Van Kirk saw that as her opportunity to provide a little breathing room for her offense, hitting seven points in a row for the Broncos to help get them back in front by 10, 57-47, with under seven minutes to go in the game.
Van Kirk hit one of her threes in that span, but she also showcased the ability to dribble-drive and draw contact. Four of her seven-straight points came from the charity stripe.
"Jamie is just competitive anyway. She saw that we were struggling to get into the post and she knew we had to get the ball to the rim," Hofstetter said. "She's not scared for the big moments. Her competitiveness makes her primed for those situations."
Van Kirk's effort still wasn't enough to deter the Defenders.
Hastings College missed four-straight shots from the field and Dordt used that time to collect an 8-1 run to get to within 62-60 with 23.4 seconds remaining.
Cami Bruckman was quickly fouled and she nailed both of her free throws with 15.2 seconds left to increase HC's advantage to four. Dordt's Kim Kroeze took the inbounds pass and traveled all the way down the court and hit a lay-up with 5.6 seconds left.
After a Defenders' timeout, Zwiener hit just 1-of-2 free throws to give Dordt one last chance. Kok had an open look at the 3-pointer, but her off-balance shot bounced away and Hastings held on.
"When we needed to bear down and get a couple of stops, we did," Hofstetter said. "That just shows the chemistry and maturity of our team."
Bruckman provided 11 points for HC, while Sierra Williamson provided nine points and a team-high nine rebounds. Van Kirk had three steals on defense.
Dordt was led offensively by Kok and Broekhuis, who each had 15 points. Kara Van Dyke had 10 points and nine boards.
Up next for the Broncos is rival Doane on Wednesday in Crete. The Tigers sit just above the Defenders in the GPAC standings and Hofstetter knows that her girls can't step down to the competition.
"It's a challenge because everyone assumes that if a team isn't in the top three or four of the conference that they aren't any good," she said. "That's simply not true in our conference."