Western Courier

Women win home finale

Aaron Viner

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It was a record-setting senior day inside Western Hall on Saturday.

The Western Illinois women’s basketball team set a new mark for 3-pointers made in a season as it completed a season sweep of the Oakland Golden Grizzlies, winning 64-53 on Saturday, in front of 1,156 fans, the second largest crowd in program history.

The Leathernecks (14-15, 7-9 in conference play) came into the game needing to convert two 3-point shots to tie the record that was set by the team last season. The team eclipsed that mark and a 3-pointer by freshman guard Michelle Maher broke the record six minutes into the game.

In her final game at Western Hall, senior guard Saule Kontautaite hit four long-range shots, tying her own record of 3-pointers made in a season (67) en route to notching a game high of 20 points.  She said after the game that she knew exactly where she stood coming into the game.

“In our last road game against South Dakota, they told me I needed nine more, and that was my goal was to tie it,” Kontautaite said.  “It feels good to leave Western Hall with a win.  It would have been heartbreaking not to win on senior night, so we really stepped it up to not let that happen.”

Kontautaite finished the regular season leading the team in scoring, averaging 12.6 points per game.

“What we needed was a couple big buckets down the stretch when they cut it to two twice, but every time Saule would make a tough shot,” second year head coach JD Gravina said. “That’s what you want you senior leading scorer to do, and it was nice to see her do that because tournament games are going to be close and so it’ll help her confidence and the team’s confidence.

Western started the game off quickly, scoring the first seven points of the game.  After Oakland started to find a rhythm, with back-to-back buckets, Maher put in the record breaking three, to give them a 10-4 lead.

Through the rest of the first half, the Leathernecks could not seem to pull away, as every shot they made was answered by the Grizzlies.  A Maher 3-pointer gave the Leathernecks a 27-18 lead with five minutes to play in the half, but Oakland clawed its way back.

The Grizzlies used a 8-1 run, including 3-pointers by Peyton Apsey and Elena Popkey to make it a 28-26 game going into halftime.

The two teams came out of the locker rooms trading buckets again in the second half, but Western was able to pace the Grizzlies and never allow them a lead.

With 12:02 to play, the Grizzlies’ Victoria Lipscomb picked up five straight points, and made it a 43-42 ball game, but Western didn’t flinch.  

Maher answered with a jumper, then sophomore Rebecca Henricson nailed a 3-pointer to quickly give Western another 6-point advantage.  

With 4:52 to play, Popkey hit a jumper, bringing the Grizzlies within two points, but it was the last bucket of the night for Oakland as Kontautaite knocked down the next five points for the Leathernecks and Western went on to the 11-point victory.

After the game, Gravina spoke about how important this win was for the team.

“It‘s big,” Gravina said.  “In the locker room, there were a few tears, and they’ve been through a lot.  To have three players in this program that are four-year players, that hasn’t happened for a while.  It’s really big for our seniors, for us as a coaching staff and for our team.”

With the victory, Western clinched the fifth seed in the upcoming conference tournament and will play Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne at noon on Sunday. The Leathernecks beat IPFW by 19 at home last Thursday, and they have a lot of confidence going into

the matchup.

“We recovered from the five-game losing streak,” Gravina said. “We‘ve improved defensively, and our offense is starting to get back to the point where it’s clicking. I think if we continue to get good shots, we‘ll be a dangerous team in the tournament.“

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The independent student newspaper of Western Illinois University. Serving Macomb since 1905.
Women win home finale