Women’s basketball soars to first place in the Summit


Angel Strack

Morgan Blumer set a program record for 3-pointers in a single season on Saturday and scored 22 points

Danny Frey

DENVER, Colo. — Morgan Blumer broke the Western Illinois women’s basketball single season 3-pointer record while the Leathernecks (20-6, 10-3 in Summit League play) took care of a business in an 80-68 victory over the Denver Pioneers (6-19, 3-9) on Saturday afternoon. Western has won 20 games for the fourth time in program history and claims 10 conference victories in a season for the first time since 2007-08.

“What a year we’ve had,” said Western Illinois head women’s basketball coach JD Gravina. “It seems like a lot of things have gone our way but you have to give all the credit to the girls. We’re right where we want to be.”

Just like North Dakota State on Wednesday, Denver kept up with the Leathernecks in the beginning. Two minutes into the game, a Mallory Boyle hoop and the harm handed Western it’s first lead of the game 5-4.

Halfway through the first quarter, Bri Johnson had an old-fashioned 3-point play of her own to put the Pioneers back in front 10-9.

The countering offensive attack would continue. Michelle Farrow came off the Leatherneck bench to bury a right wing triple for the final points of the first quarter with 2:19 remaining. After one quarter, Western led 19-14.

The second quarter was the turning point when Taylor Hanneman knocked down a trey followed by an Emily Clemens transition layup. The run continued with another Blumer 3-pointer followed by two Mallory Boyle layups, she would go a perfect seven of seven from the charity stripe. A 13-0 run put Western ahead 29-14 still with 7:20 remaining in the second.

“We played with a huge amount of intensity,” Gravina said. “We were getting stops and rebounds. We played well to finish the half.”

Blumer tied Saule Kontautaite’s single season 3-point field goal record with 2:40 left in the first half and then a Taylor Higginbotham layup stretched Western’s lead to 20 points at 41-21.

Consecutive threes by Haley Simental pushed some momentum back on Denver’s side before freshman Olivia Kaufmann dished it beautifully on a bounce to Olivia Braun for two in the waning second of the first half. Western doubled up Denver in the second quarter to lead 45-27 at halftime.

Both teams came out firing in the third quarter, including Blumer who set the single season 3-point field goal record with 6:53 remaining in the third quarter on a corner 3-pointer. Blumer owns the record now at 69 threes in a single season with that number almost certain to grow. A minute later, Clemens hit a layup through traffic giving Western Illinois its largest lead of the night 58-37 with 5:37 to go in the third.

Simental and Denver senior Jacqlyn Poss led the Pioneer charge dwindling the Leatherneck lead to as little as 10 points on a Poss 18 footer. Heading into the fourth, the Leathernecks were battling to hold onto a 65-55 advantage.

Western began to pull away for good when Higginbotham drilled consecutive triples as Denver trailed 78-59 with 4:08 to go in regulation. The Pioneers did end the game on a 9-2 run but it wasn’t nearly enough as the Leathernecks closed out their regular season road schedule with an 80-68 victory inside Magness Arena.

Blumer led all scorers with 22 points and also hauled in seven rebounds. Clemens scored 16 points and dished out eight assists to stay up near the top distributors in the nation. Higginbotham added 14 and Boyle was near a double-double with 9 points and eight boards.

Poss paced the Pioneers with 19 points with Bri Johnson and Simental right behind with 14 and 13 points respectively. Jesse Spittel led the Pioneers in rebounds with eight.

South Dakota State lost to IUPUI on Saturday, that means the Jackrabbits and Leathernecks meet in Macomb on Wednesday night at 7 p.m. to determine who takes first place in the Summit League.

“There’s no bigger game than Wednesday,” Gravina said. “We’ve got to pull out all the stops to get people there and excited. That’s a conference championship caliber type game and we want to Western Hall rocking.”

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