by Drury Athletics
The Drury Lady Panthers advanced to the Great Lakes Valley Conference semifinals with their 29th win in a row as they beat McKendree 87-79 in the quarterfinal round on Friday night at the Vadalabene Center in Edwardsville, Illinois.
Drury, ranked number one nationally and seeded first in the GLVC tournament, improved to 29-0 while the Bearcats, seeded eighth, ended their season with a 13-15 record.
McKendree stayed with Drury early trailing 24-21 in the second period, but the Lady Panthers went on a 22-6 run on their way to outscoring the Bearcats 33-13 in the quarter to take a 51-29 lead at halftime.
After the Lady Panthers had the game seemingly under control with a 24 point lead in the third period, McKendree chipped away and got as close as five in the fourth quarter before Drury put the game away in the final 20 seconds.
“A lot of credit goes to McKendree as they were scrappy and played really hard,” said Lady Panthers head coach Molly Miller. “Our defense came alive in the second quarter, and we had some weird line-ups out there when we got into some foul trouble, so it was good to see our reserves step up and play a big role.”
Hailey Diestelkamp led Drury with 29 points, nine rebounds, and six steals while Payton Richards put in a career-high 19 points hitting five three-pointers.
“When we needed rebounds in those last two minutes, Hailey was there when we needed her tonight,” added Miller. “She and Daejah Bernard are such competitors that they stepped up and made plays at both ends of the floor down the stretch.”
Sophomore guard Sydney Diekhoff kept McKendree in the game, almost single-handedly, as she scored a career-high 38 points hitting 11 of 18 shots, going 5 for 8 from three-point range, and 11 for 13 from the free throw line. Diekhoff accounted for all five of the Bearcats three-pointers.
McKendree shot 45 percent hitting 22 of their 49 attempts and were better from the field than Drury as the Lady Panthers shot 42 percent going 27 for 65. The Bearcats also outrebounded Drury by 10, 43-33, and went 30 for 37 from the free throw line while the Lady Panthers hit 26 of their 39 tries from the stripe.
The Lady Panthers forced 28 turnovers from McKendree while committing only 12, and Drury outscored the Bearcats 27-8 in points-off-turnovers.
The Lady Panthers move on to the semifinals where they will play the winner of Truman State and Maryville at 8:30 pm on Saturday in Edwardsville, Illinois.