Braves swept on road over weekend

After two tough road losses, the Bradley women’s basketball team prepares itself for the final stretch of the season.
Playing on the road over the weekend, the Braves took on Wichita State and Missouri State.  The Braves walked away with losses in both games.
The Friday game against Wichita State pitted the Braves against the top team in the MVC. The Shockers showed why they were deserving of that top rank, defeating the Braves 67-54 in Wichita.
The Shockers, led by preseason MVC player of the year Alex Harden, held the Braves to 34 percent shooting from the field.
Harden, who led all scorers with 18 points, keyed a 6-0 run late in the second half that took away almost any chance at a comeback for the Braves.
“Each player has a strength, each player has a weakness,” said head coach Michael Brooks. “One of the things she doesn’t like to do is shoot the outside shot. Their team doesn’t like to shoot the outside shot. We take away what they like to do. Sometimes we have more success at it than others.”
Michelle Young, Fantasha Vine and Kelly Frings led the Braves with nine points a piece.
The next game, against Missouri State in Springfield, Mo., was a heartbreaker.
“There are some games where we play really well together, and other games where we fall apart a little bit,” said senior forward Alyson Spinas-Valanis. “It’s fine tuning those things and making sure that we don’t fall apart when we play.”
The Braves led by one with 16 minutes to play, when the Bears took the lead on an 11-0 run, which proved to be a lead Missouri State would never relinquish.
Michelle Young led the Braves with 15 points, while Kelsey Budd tallied seven assists.
Now, following the Missouri State loss, the Braves return home for a season-long three game home stand. Brooks said he knows that now is the time to make a run.
“You’ve got to win them,” said Brooks. “If we can get these wins at home and get single games on the road. If we can do that we’ll still put ourselves in a good position, but there’s little room for error.”

Spinas-Valanis said she shares the same views.

“If we can play against Missouri State like that, and Wichita, then there’s no reason we can’t play with any other team in our conference,” Spinas-Valanis said.

The Braves open their three-game home stand Friday, Feb. 21 against Loyola.
points over the weekend, including tying her career-high with 10 points against ISU.
“Leti got us going,” said Brooks. “Leti is growing everyday as a freshman. You hope to see that growth and for her to continue to get better, and she is.”
In the first half against ISU, Lerma scored eight of her ten points, which put the Braves up early, and made key defensive plays in the second half to keep the Redbirds from taking the lead late.
Her play has Brooks excited for the future.
“Right now, we have seen so much growth and potential from her,” said Brooks. ”We’re just enthused with where she’s going to go and hope she continues on this path.”
Brooks also said he believes that the team is in a better place than the beginning of the year and is starting to pick up some momentum.
“We’re playing with a lot more heart and a lot more passion,” said Brooks. “We wavered in our belief this year at times, and we’re finally starting to put back to back games where we’ve played with great efforts.”
was freshman Leni Lerma, who paced the offensive attack for the women’s team as she totaled 17 points over the weekend, and sparked Bradley’s offense against ISU and was a rebound away from recording a double-double.
“Leni got us going,” said Brooks, “Lenis is growing everyday as a freshman, you hope to see that growth and for her to continue to get better, and she is.”
In the first half against ISU, Lerma scored eight of her 10 points, which put the Braves up early, and made key defensive plays in the second half to keep the Redbirds from taking the lead late.
Her play has coach Brooks excited for the future.
“Right now, we have seen so much growth and potential from her,” said Brooks. ”We’re just enthused with where she’s going to go and hope she continues on this path.”
Brooks also believes that the team is in a better place than the beginning of the year, and is starting to pick up some momentum.
“We’re playing with a lot more heart and a lot more passion,” said Brooks, “we wavered in our beliefs this year at times and we’re finally starting to put back to back games where we’ve played with great efforts.”

Chris Kwiecinski is the Scout’s sports reporter. You can follow him on Twitter @OchoK41.