The Drury Lady Panthers found themselves playing street basketball for most of the first half where even drawing blood didn’t always mean a foul. Combined with cold shooting that included shooting only 18% from the floor in the second quarter, the Lady Panthers found themselves down at the half to a determined Grand Valley State team. It looked like another regional title exit could be in the cards.
But the Drury Lady Panthers grouped together in the locker room at half time and said “Not Again.”
The Panthers took control of the game starting midway through the third quarter and pulled away for a 51-44 win in the Midwest Regional Final game over a surprisingly aggressive Grand Valley State team.
Coach Molly Miller said she was surprised to see the aggressive nature of the Lakers.
“They don’t go very deep so they don’t foul a lot,” Miller told reporters. “But then at this point in the game you’re fighting for your basketball life so you’re going to scratch and claw and do what you have to do on both ends.”
Lauren Holmes, who ended up with a bloodied nose from a Grand Valley State player’s elbow, lead all scorers in the game with 15 points. Tournament MVP Hailey Diestelkamp was the only other Lady Panther in double figures with 13 points. Diestelkamp turned in a double-double with her team leading 10 rebounds.
“[The team’s] will to win was incredible,” Coach Miller said post-game. “We got lost a little bit that first half from our focus. Shots weren’t falling or the ball wasn’t bouncing our way or the calls weren’t going our way. So we had a little halftime chat. Control the controllables. The uncontrollables don’t matter. Let’s focus and play Drury basketball.”
Tournament MVP Hailey Diestelkamp was quick to turn the spotlight away from herself after the game.
“I couldn’t have done it without my teammates,” she told reporters. “I’ll say that until the day I die. And my coaches. They’ve got me where I am. Now, on to the next!”
All-Tournament team selection Daejah Bernard told OI that it’s nice to have the confidence of being part of a team where every night someone else can step up to be the key player.
“I think we’ve known that all year,” she said. “Our bench can step up and anybody can step up. We have depth and I think that’s what helps our team excel. Any given night, any player can step up, hit shots, put the team on their back.”
Drury will have their next game in the Division II Women’s Elite Eight in Columbus, Ohio on Tuesday, March 26th.