(Cover photo: Bellarmine’s Mackenzie Martinez blows by Drury’s Hannah Dressler for a third quarter layup)
ST. CHARLES, Mo.—The Bellarmine University women’s basketball team turned it probably its best performance of the year and knocked off the No. 10 Drury Panthers 80-77 today in the semifinals of the Great Lakes Valley Conference Championship Tournament today at Family Arena.
The Knights, ranked 24th nationally, were in command from the outset, bolting out to a 15-point lead at the three minute mark of the first quarter. Drury, however, battled back and ended the period on a 12-4 run to keep within striking distance.
Drury (24-4) actually took a brief lead in the second quarter, but Bellarmine (23-3) closed the first half on a 9-0 run to re-take command.
Bellarmine (23-3) managed to answer the Lady Panthers (24-4) every time they made a run, and came up with a key defensive stop on the last possession to preserve the victory. With just 5.5 seconds remaining, the Panthers inbounded the ball on their end of the floor and Mackenzie Martinez blocked a 3-point attempt by Drury’s Annie Armstrong and BU’s Ally Mayhaus corralled the rebound to seal the win.
“Our kids were so gritty this afternoon,” said Bellarmine Coach Chancellor Dugan, adding “This one was for Jay,” referring to former Bellarmine President Joseph J. “Jay” McGowan, who died unexpectedly on Tuesday.
Dugan said the Knights’ hot start surprised her a bit. “I was a little nervous in the locker room (before the game), because we weren’t as emotional as we usually are. I guess it (the lack of emotion) was focus, because we came out and took it to them.”
“We just rebounded so well and wanted this game so much, and our fans were fantastic,” Dugan said. “It was a team effort for sure. Even the kids that didn’t play were on the bench doing what they needed to do encouraging everybody.”
The Knights got another double-double out of junior Sarah Galvin, who scored 25 and pulled down 10 rebounds. Martinez also had a solid effort, dishing out seven assists and running down six rebounds.
As a team, Bellarmine put up some impressive numbers, shooting 52.4 percent from the field, which included going 5-of-11 from 3-point range. The Knights also controlled the backboards with a 42-29 rebounding advantage. Their work on the offensive glass helped the Knights tally 21 second chance points, while Drury managed just nine.
The Panthers, who came in to the GLVC tourney as the No. 2 seed, got a huge effort from Armstrong, who led all scorers with 27.
The No. 3-seeded Knights advance to the championship game at 1 p.m. tomorrow. It will Bellarmine’s second appearance in the title game with the first coming in 1999 when they dropped a 74-42 decision to Northern Kentucky.
The Knights will face Quincy, the No. 4 seed, in the championship game as the Hawks upset top-seeded Lewis 59-54 in the other semifinal.