Macomb, Ill. – The Leathernecks hosted the Denver Pioneers this weekend for Senior Night. Western Illinois was coming off a victory against Omaha and looking to build off their momentum coming into their final home series.
Western Illinois was looking to complete the season sweep against Denver, after winning their previous matchup at home in thrilling fashion. After career highs were made in points from Sam Pryor and Elizabeth Lutz, the Leathernecks wanted to ride their hot shooting into their final contest on Saturday. The team honored their lone senior, Grace Gilmore, with a video tribute from former players and her family. Going into the matchup, the Leathernecks wanted to get Evan Zars more involved, and stop the hot shooting from Claire Gritt from the previous night. Gritt, who had a career high of 26 points, came into the final matchup only 12 points away from the 1,000 mark.
The game got off to a hot start, with the Leathernecks jumping into a big lead. They were able to ride Danni Nichols, who was sinking shots from all over the floor. Nichols played a big factor in the contest cashing in with a game high 24 points. However, the Pioneers would not go quietly into the night. Anna Jackson was on fire from beyond the arc and was able to drop in 20 points to put Denver in reach of a comeback. Early in the fourth quarter, Denver’s star player, Meghan Boyd fouled out, and they needed to find someone to lean on. Enter Uju Ezeudu. She accounted for most of the Pioneers points in the final quarter as they got within two points late in the game. However, after a few late official reviews, the Leathernecks were able to hold onto the lead and get a victory on Senior Night, winning 90-82.
The team was able to send senior Gilmore home with a win in her final appearance at Western Hall. She notched 20 points to help secure the victory for Western. The three-year starter has been a big factor for the Leathernecks with her time in the program, and she leaves with many accolades. She holds the record for most points scored in a single game in Leatherneck history, with 46 points. She also has been a part of some big-time upsets, defeating No. 18 ranked Stanford on the road during her freshman season. She will close out her career on the road against Oral Roberts next week, and finish with The Summit League Tournament on March 6.