Kate Bellamy was on the verge of tears. She had just turned the ball over as Fort Hays State's Chandler Taylor converted the steal into a one-point lead for the Tigers with 21 seconds left.
"I was close. I was on the verge [of tears]," Bellamy said of sitting on the bench during a timeout with NSU's final possession of the game coming up.
"It was very emotional."
Bellamy would redeem herself, though.
The 5-foot-9 sophomore from Australia put up a potential game-winning field-goal attempt from the right baseline with 3.5 seconds left. It was blocked by Fort Hays State's 6-foot-4 center Kate Lehman.
But wait. Lehman was called for her first and only foul of the game, sending Bellamy to the free-throw line with a chance to win the game.
She did just that.
Bellamy calmly sank both free throws as NSU completed the upset of No. 23 Fort Hays State in front of 742 inside the NSU Event Center.
"I wanted to win it back for my team," said Bellamy, who finished with 10 points. "I would have been the reason we lost...I said to myself, 'I have to do this to win it for my team.'"
Bellamy wrapped up the day by going three-of-three at the foul line. None were bigger than the final two, though.
But ask Fort Hays State coach Tony Hobson and he'll say Bellamy should not have not received a chance to become NSU's saving grace.
"I would love to have someone throw up a desperation shot from the corner and have it hit our post player's elbow and get a foul call," said Hobson, whose team had a four-game winning streak snapped. "...But you do have to give them credit for making both of (the free throws). You still have to make the free throws.
"But that was, well, obviously...I've never seen that before. Obviously, an inexperienced official makes a poor call. What do you do?"
Lehman — who had 19 points and seven rebounds, despite averaging close to 12 rebounds a game — was in full agreement with her coach.
"Not in my opinion," Lehman said when asked if she fouled Bellamy, "but I don't make the calls."
Fort Hays State's Beth Bohuslavsky put up a 3-pointer at the buzzer, but the potential game-winning shot clanged off the rim.
Chelsey Bearthard led the way for the RiverHawks (8-8, 5-4 Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association) with 16 points on a six-of-nine effort from the floor.
"Obviously a big win for us," said NSU coach Randy Gipson, whose club beat a Tiger team that had beaten opponents by an average of 30 points of its last four games. "It got a little crazy in the end, but I think up until the final few minutes, the game really went exactly the way we hoped it would."
Leading the nation in average scoring margin, Fort Hays State (12-3, 6-3) shot only 31.5 percent (17-of-54) from the field and nine-of-18 from the free-throw line. The Tigers were also out-rebounded 38-32.
"I'd like to think that maybe we defended well enough to make them to take a little more time than they wanted in their halfcourt offense," said Gipson, whose team held Fort Hays State — which came in averaging a league-best 85.9 points a game — to its lowest output of the year.
"It worked out today."
Aside from Lehman only one other Fort Hays State player scored in double figures. Chelsea Mason had 11 points, but she was four-of-13 from the field and three-of-12 from beyond the 3-point arc.
"It's a big win," Bellamy said. "...We're starting to show that we can do it if we play as a team and fight hard."