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Season of high expectations starts strong for Braves

Photo courtesy Bradley Athletics and Josh Schwam.

There were some bumps in the road, but the Bradley women’s basketball team trooped out an 84-70 victory against Kansas City on Wednesday afternoon to open a season of high expectations. 

Those expectations are in large part due to the presence of senior Gabi Haack and junior Lasha Petree, who wound up on different ends of the spectrum after the win against the Roos. 

Haack splashed in 5 3-pointers on 9 attempts, allowing her to break Katie Yohn’s school record of 210 made threes. She finished the afternoon with 211 career makes and a 19-point, 9-rebound performance. 

“It’s not my goal to break records,” Haack said after the game. “They just happen with teamwork, and my teammates really found me open today and it resulted in some knockdown threes.” 

As Haack set the record, Petree suffered an apparent ankle injury during the game’s third quarter. She left the game and did not return, finishing with a game-high 22 points nonetheless. 

The severity of Petree’s injury and the timetable for her return were not immediately clear. 

“She’s down in the training room now and getting evaluated,” Bradley head coach Andrea Gorski said. “But I’ll tell you we’re not going to push it, that’s for sure. We’ve got big goals for the season and if she’s not ready to go, we’re not going to push it.”

A residual effect of Petree’s injury was that other scorers, such as Haack, were forced to step up. 

“With Lasha out, she’s one of our main scorers,” Haack said. “The second half, we really just focused on moving the ball and getting more than one pass. Our first half, we kind of struggled with moving the ball around. When we move the ball, we have open shots.”

Lasha Petree’s 22 points mirrored a hot start from her and younger sister Mahri, who finished with 13 points and 10 rebounds. Kansas City opened the first quarter with two Paige Bradford buckets, but Lasha responded quickly to the 5-0 start with a pair of field goals. After Bradford added two free throws and Mahri Petree responded with a three, the score was knotted at 7-7. 

The teams continued to trade paint for much of the first half. Bradley led by a pair at the end of the first quarter, with the Braves’ 18-16 lead indicative of the early parity. 

The first portion of the second quarter belonged to the Roos. Senior Emily Ivory, the leading returning scorer for Kansas City, dropped in a three with 4:49 left to put UMKCahead 32-27. Bradley responded in the form of a 5-point run from Lasha Petree to tie the game. 

After a layup by sophomore Veronika Roberts and another Lasha Petree three, with a pair of free throws by Ivory, the Braves led 37-34 at the half. 

The Braves, as expected, needed some time to knock the rust off after a seemingly endless offseason. 

“I thought how we responded coming out in the third quarter really set the tone for the second half,” Gorski said. “So that was good to see.” 

The second half was different. Bradley took advantage of some early mistakes from the Roos to pull ahead to a 52-36 lead with 5:08 to play in the third. That run to open the second half saw the emergence of freshman Tete Danso, who scored her first career points within that span. 

That’s not to say the freshman from Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota would have needed any points to have considered the game a success. In addition to Danso’s six points, she led all players with a total of 11 rebounds. 

As Danso emerged, the Braves never seriously looked to be in much danger throughout the second half. Kansas City’s deficit hovered between 10 and 16 points for the rest of the game, and the Braves closed the game out with little issue. 

“I’m really excited to see where this team goes,” Haack said. “It was our first game back so obviously there was a little bit of rust we had to get off, but I think we’re all ready for Saturday.”

The Braves now turn their attention to Milwaukee on Saturday. Tip-off is scheduled for 6:00 p.m. on ESPN+. 

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