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Bradley rallies over Drake for first conference win

Courtesy Josh Schwam and Bradley Athletics.

Bradley relied on the efforts of Lasha Petree and Gabi Haack to score an 80-75 win against Drake on Saturday and force a split in the weekend series. 

Petree’s 28 points led the Braves in scoring for the fifth time this season, while Haack was close behind with 23 points. If the Braves had anything from Friday’s 71-56 loss left on the mind, it seemed to be motivation.

Both teams were more efficient to start the second leg of the doubleheader than they were the first time. Bradley, who shot just under 29 percent from the field on Friday, connected on six of its first 14 shots from the field. Drake shot an even 50 percent on its first 16 shots, with senior Monica Burich closing the first quarter with a buzzer-beating three to give the Bulldogs a 23-15 lead. 

Bradley would shoot nearly 46 percent for the entire game, while Petree and Haack would connect on exactly half of their field goal attempts. 

“We really shot bad yesterday,” Haack said. “I think our percentage was … it wasn’t good. And I think a lot of us just kind of forgot about that and just went into this game with a much different mindset. And we knew our shots were gonna fall. We’re all good shooters and everything. So we just went in today with a different mindset.”

Burich remained hot to start the second half, assisting on a three and draining another one in quick succession to advance the Drake lead to 14 points. After the Bulldogs’ mini-run to start the frame, the teams settled in and traded baskets after a couple of scoreless minutes. 

With 6:36 remaining in the second quarter, only three Braves had found the scoring column: juniors Lasha Petree and Tatum Koenig and senior Nyjah White. Senior Gabi Haack and freshman Isis Fitch added scoring contributions to up that figure to five by halftime. At that mark, Petree’s 15 points led all scorers. 

Drake’s attack was far more balanced throughout the first half. Nine Bulldogs had collected points during the game’s first 20 minutes, led by a 9-point half from Monahan and 7 points from Burich. The Bulldogs led 38-31 at the half but were limited from the field in the second quarter, as the Bradley defense only allowed them to connect on four of 13 shots. 

Bradley opened the third quarter with a bang as Haack connected on her first three-pointer of the game. With the deficit cut down to four points, Drake responded by sending Kiara Collier to the free-throw line for two makes. Emily Marsh then went on a tear for her first five points of the game, laying in a basket and draining a statement three to decrease the Drake lead to 42-39 with 7:43 left in the frame.

The Braves eventually took their first lead since the first quarter on a Lasha Petree and-one with 6:14 remaining in the third frame, which made the score 44-43. Then the floodgates opened as Petree and Haack drained threes as part of an 8-0 run. That run would develop into a 20-11 break to close the third quarter, and the Braves led 66-57 with 10 minutes to play. 

Foul trouble crept in and by the fourth quarter had started to hurt Drake’s attack. Monahan and Burich, who had 19 combined points in the first three quarters, each had three fouls entering the final quadrant. 

“They’re a very physical team,” Bradley head coach Andrea Gorski said. “So if we go make a cut, they’re bumping us off the block, I think that it probably back them off a little bit more on defense where they couldn’t shove aside a position as much on our cuts.”

Bradley was able to maintain a grip on the lead for much of the fourth quarter and never led by less than five points for the frame’s first half. Drake junior Maggie Negaard cut the lead to 72-68 with 4:59 to play, then hit two shots at the charity stripe to make it a 72-70 game a minute later. Two points was as close as Drake would get, however, as the Braves made their free throws late to clinch their first conference win of the season. 

“It was a little stressful down the stretch with Lasha picking up [four fouls], Nyjah picking up four,” Gorski said. “But I like that we battled, got some stops when we needed, you know, for the most part, hit our free throws down the stretch.”

The win marked the Braves’ first victory in the state of Iowa in 10 years, having last beaten Drake on the road on Jan. 24, 2010. It also marked the end of the Braves’ first doubleheader of the conference season. 

“I actually like this setup,” Haack said. “I mean, last night I was upset about the [loss] and everything. But I mean, I was pretty excited too, because like, we get to play them again tomorrow. So I really liked [these] back-to-back same-team games.

Bradley will host SIU on Jan. 8 and 9. Whether those games will be available on ESPN+ or ESPN3 has yet to be announced. 

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