ST. CHARLES, MO. (Courtesy Drake Media Relations) Senior forward Jill Martin scored a game-high 20 points and pulled down 13 rebounds for her league-leading 14th double-double as Drake erased a five-point halftime deficit to post a 46-41 semifinal round victory past Evansville, while advancing to the championship of the State Farm Missouri Valley Conference Women's Basketball Tournament for the third time in the last five years.
The Bulldogs (22-9) will face Illinois State (25-6) in the championship game at 2:05 p.m. Sunday with Fox Sports Midwest televising the game. The winner will earn an automatic berth in the upcoming NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament.
"I couldn't be more proud of the players," said fifth-year Drake coach Amy Stephens. "What they did in the second half was phenomenal and that is why we are in the championship.”
The Bulldogs, avenged two regular season setbacks to Evansville, while limiting the Purple Aces to just 28.3 percent shooting from the floor, including 22.6 percent shooting in the second half.
Drake won the affair on the strength of its rebounding prowess as the Bulldogs registered a season-high in rebounds, outdistancing the Purple Aces, 51-42.
For Drake, it was a stretch of 13 minutes and 28 seconds in which the Bulldogs outscored Evansville 19-2 to erase a 21-13 deficit and assume a 32-23 advantage with 8:30 remaining in the affair. Drake did so despite registering only 16 first-half points, the fourth-lowest single-half total in school history.
Fueling the surge with 10 points, including Drake’s only three-pointer in the game, was Martin.
The Purple Aces snapped their scoring drought on a jumper from Anaris Sickles with 8:10 left in the affair and parlayed it into a 6-0 run to pull them within four, 33-29.
Senior Lindsay Whorton drained her only basket in the game at the 3:32 mark and junior Lauren Dybing added a jumper with 2:32 remaining to provide Drake a 39-31 lead.
Evansville slowly chipped away at the advantage and pulled with one possession on a jumper from Ashlee Barrett with 51 seconds remaining,
The Bulldogs secured the victory at the line where sophomore Monique’ Jones (Lee’s Summit, Mo./Lee’s Summit North) connected on three of her four attempts and Dybing added a pair to push Drake to its second straight title tilt.
Jones finished with a 12-point, eight-rebound performance, while Dybing contributed nine points, all in the second half,
Sickles led Evansville with a career-high 14 points, while also grabbing a team-best nine rebounds.