Necks ready to reclaim title


Becca Langys/ Photo Editor

Emily Clemens scans the floor searching for an open teammates.

Titus Perez, Courier Staff

The regular season has come to an end for the Western Illinois University women’s basketball team who finished with a 21-8 record with a 10-4 finish in the Summit League. They stand in the third seed as they head to compete in the Summit League tournament in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

The Leathernecks came into the tournament overflowing with confidence. They have won their last two games, but the biggest chip on their shoulder comes from the fact that they won the Summit League tournament last year. Although the Leathernecks come into the tournament the third seed behind University of South Dakota Coyotes (24-5, 14-0 Summit) and South Dakota State University Jackrabbits (23-6, 12-2 Summit), their rotation is almost identical to the one that took the title last year. The Leathernecks return all but two of the players that played major minutes in the 2017 tournament including all-tournament performer, senior guard Morgan Blumer and conference and regular season most valuable player, senior point guard Emily Clemens.

The Leathernecks are looking to put the past mishaps against the Jackrabbits and Coyotes behind them. Their fourth conference loss came against the two teams from South Dakota by a combined 95 points, including two 35 plus point losses to the Jackrabbits who will be the Leathernecks’ expected opponents in the second round of the tournament.

However, the women of Purple and Gold will not have to worry about either of those teams in the first round. Their first contest will be against the University of Nebraska Omaha Mavericks (12-15, 3-11 Summit) who have struggled all year long to win games. Omaha comes in as the sixth seed, they faced off against the Leathernecks in last year’s tournament losing in the semifinals, 84-82. This year, they have struggled against the Leathernecks, losing both contest by more than 35 points each.

The Leathernecks dominated the rebound battle in both games and turned the Mavericks over 20 times as well. Clemens, who leads the Leathernecks in points with 18.1 and assists with 7.8 this season, averaged 24 points per game against the Mavericks this season as they haven’t found a solution for the point guard. Clemens and company will be hoping for an easier game than last year when they defeated Omaha by two in the Summit League semis. If they follow the blueprint that has led them to dominating the Mavericks this season, it should propel them towards a win. Keep on the lookout during the game for Clemens breaking her own Summit League record for assists in a single season. She currently has 227 this season sitting just seven shy of her conference record of 234.

The Mavericks have not played well this season, but no one should be counted out during March Madness, as we all know anything can happen. If they are going to have a chance, they must hit shots. They shot just 29 percent from three on the season. Doing that against Western will most likely lead to another embarrassing lost which would end their season. The junior trio of Amber Vidal, Ellie Brecht and Jess Walter must click for the Mavericks to have a chance. If one of the three can’t get going during the game, the Leathernecks should be on their way to the semifinals. Western’s defense has made it a priority to shut the trio down as the Mavericks have yet to get two of the three in double figures in a single game versus the Leathernecks this season.

The game is set for Saturday, March 3, in Sioux Falls, S.D.

Twitter: HeChilling