Trailing by one point to Northern Iowa with 20 seconds left, the Bradley women’s basketball team had a chance to upset the No. 1 seeded Panthers.
But, a block from UNI in the waning seconds saved the game for the Panthers, who ended the Braves’ season with a 46-45 win.
“They made one more play than us,” head coach Michael Brooks said. “Everybody could see how great of a defensive team we are.”
Coming out of a timeout with 20 seconds left, junior Leti Lerma inbounded the ball to senior Kat Yelle, who passed the rock around the arc until she got it back and gave it to Lerma with 10 seconds left.
Lerma tried for a buzzer-beating jumper, but UNI’s Stephanie Davison blocked her while Sharnae Lamar came down with the ball and dribbled the remaining time off the clock.
“I was going to attack the opposite [side of the basket],” Lerma said. “But they covered up the right so I went back left, and [Davison] just made a good play.”
Lerma finished the game with her second double-double in as many days, scoring 16 and grabbing 13 rebounds.
The game’s finish and final statistics exemplified just how close of a defensive game it was between the two teams.
Bradley shot 32 percent from the field, turned the ball over 15 times and had 34 rebounds. UNI shot 31 percent, had 12 turnovers and 30 rebounds. The game was also tied eight times and featured 12 lead changes.
However, the stats don’t show that the Braves had the Panthers on their heels for the first half of the game, as Bradley held a nine point lead over UNI before taking a 24-21 lead into halftime.
“We want to come out right away and throw that first punch,” Lerma said. “I don’t think we ever stepped down from the number one team, and I think that was a big step for us today.”
A big part of the Braves defensive strategy involved shutting down two of the Panthers’ best offensive options: Amber Sorenson and Madison Weekly.
“We just keyed in on two players,” Brooks said. “You’ve got Weekly and Sorenson, if you can get them off the three-point line then somebody else is going to have to hit them.”
While Weekly scored 22 of UNI’s 46 points, Sorenson only scored four, which forced the Panthers to look elsewhere for offense.
“We did a great job of pressuring them and frustrating them at times to take them out of their first option,” Brooks said.
Although Brooks’ squad put on a defensive clinic, they fell one basket short of beating the MVC’s top seed in the tournament.
With most of the team becoming upperclassmen in the 2016-2017 season, another year of experience can only benefit the Braves.
“With 10 freshmen and sophomores [combined], we continue to build,” Brooks said. “I think the sky is the limit for us.”