Leathernecks Cap off comeback, advance to summit league semi finals

Brendan Reidy, Courier Staff

Sioux Falls, SD — The Western Illinois Fighting Leathernecks headed to South Dakota for The Summit League Tournament this past weekend. The No. 5 seed Leathernecks took on the UMKC Roos in the quarterfinals of the conference tourney.

In their first two contests, the two sides split the season series, winning one game apiece. Their third matchup picked up right where they left off. “It was back in fourth action for most of the first two quarters, but the Roos were in firm position holding onto the lead for most of the first half. Despite struggles to find the bottom of the net for the Leathernecks, Grace Gilmore was able to carry the load early for Western. In the first two quarters, she racked up 16 of the teams 28 points to keep them within striking business. However, the leathernecks would go into the break trailing by 10.

In the second half, the tide began to turn for the Leathernecks. They outscored the Roos 14-6 in the third quarter, and continued their lockdown defense into the fourth. Keeping UMKC afloat was Naomie Alnatas who had a team-high 17 for the Roos. The game would be neck and neck down the stretch. Big shots were made from both sides, but the biggest play of the game was Elizabeth Lutz driving to the paint and drawing the foul to send her to the line. After she knocked down both free throws to give the Leathernecks a one point advantage, UMKC would call a timeout with 1.6 seconds remaining to draw up a play for one last crack to come away with a game winner. The inbounds play was unsuccessful, and the Leathernecks would be able to finish off their comeback effort with a big win on the big stage with the final score being 60-59.

Leading the way for Western Illinois was Gilmore and Danni Nichols. The two combined for 33 points and 10 rebounds to help the Leathernecks advance to the tournament semi-finals.

Western Illinois will face off against Omaha in the Semi-Finals on Monday night after they stunned the No. 21 ranked South Dakota State Jackrabbits in the first round of the conference. The Leathernecks will look to win their third matchup with the Mavericks after splitting the season series. The winner of that matchup will tip off against the winner of the South Dakota vs NDSU game for a ticket to the NCAA tournament.