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Braves keep Leathernecks on short leash, win big

Photo by Kayla Johnson.

The Bradley women’s basketball team outscored Western Illinois 71-30 in the first three quarters before claiming an 84-49 victory and handing the Leathernecks their first home loss on Wednesday night.

The Braves were paced by junior guard Gabi Haack who scored 20 points — 18 in the first half — including five 3-pointers. Similar to last week’s game against Eureka, the Braves claimed the lead early and did not look back.

That lead didn’t come immediately, however. Sophomore guard and leading scorer Lasha Petree was called for two fouls in the first 48 seconds of the game. Following this, head coach Andrea Gorski was immediately worried as she thought Western Illinois would keep the game close from tipoff to final buzzer.

“I just told her to be ready because ‘We are going to need you and you’re going to play this half with two fouls,’” Gorski said in a postgame interview with WIRL’s Ed Hammond.

Bradley’s defense led the way, holding the Leathernecks to just 23 percent shooting from the field and 25 percent from beyond the arc. In addition, the Braves held leading scorer Olivia Kaufmann to 10 points on only 3-9 shooting, both near half of her season average.

“I thought defensively this was probably as good as we could follow a game plan,” Gorski said. “I thought our defense had a lot of energy. We moved as a team defensively and I thought that was a big difference.”

That defensive pressure led to Western Illinois shooting 4-30 from the field in the first half. Haack and Gorski said the game plan was to deny the 3-point shot and rebound. Bradley out rebounded its opponent for the second straight game this time by 24. Western Illinois has attempted 165 threes through six games.

“I thought we did a really good job of running them off the 3-point line and helping when they did drive,” Haack told Hammond.

“[I said] we gotta defend the three [before the game],” Gorski said. “Our conference has great 3-point shooters and we have got to be able to contest, take away their momentum from the 3-point line early and I thought we were able to do that despite getting in some foul trouble.”

With Lasha out of the game early, her sister, freshman Mahri Petree, entered and finished with 14 points and seven rebounds in a game-high 33 minutes.

“We knew that Western was a very big flopping team so we were like ‘We need to watch out for that,’ and then it happened [with Lasha’s two fouls],” Haack said on WIRL. “Mahri came in and she brought a lot of energy both on offense and defense. She’s always talking on the floor. She has good court vision and crashes the boards so hard, like really hard.”

Gorski said the final score does not reflect the Leathernecks’ team-wide skillset.

“Western Illinois is a good team and we just played together on both ends of the floor so well,” Gorski said.

That togetherness showed, as all but one player who saw game action scored.

“[We] are a super tight team, one of the tightest I’ve ever coached,” Gorski said. “They have each others back. I think they genuinely feed off of other people’s success. I love that they celebrate and promote each other.”

The bench was loud and on court communication strong, according to Haack.

“Our bench was always talking, all five players on the court were always talking,” Haack said. “I think that really just helped us mesh more on offense.”

Bradley will be back in front of home fans tomorrow to face Miami-Ohio at 1 p.m. at Renaissance Coliseum.

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