Mavericks forward Abi Lujan fights for every point against Western Illinois Photo Credit: Morgan Wright
The Omaha Women’s Basketball team struggled in the second half of their semi-final game against Western Illinois before falling 84-82 to the Fighting Leathernecks. With the win, Western Illinois advanced to the Summit League Championship game, where they will take on IUPUI Tuesday afternoon at the Denny Sanford PREMIER Center.
The Mavericks were led by 29 points from Senior forward Mikaela Shaw and 24 from fellow Senior forward Michaela Dapprich, while Western Illinois was led by more than 20 points apiece from Junior guards Morgan Blumer and Emily Clemens. Clemens put together a triple-double for Western Illinois with 22 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists. Clemens and Blumer were joined in double-digits by Junior forward Olivia Braun and Sophomore guard Taylor Higginbotham with 15 and 10 points, respectively.
Western Illinois raced out to an early 7-0 lead on the Mavericks before both teams settled in for the first quarter. Both teams shot over 40 percent from the floor for the quarter, and the Fighting Leathernecks led by two after the first. The teams continued to play close for the second quarter until the Mavericks pulled away towards the end of the half. Omaha led by as many as eleven in the first half, and would up leading Western Illinois 47-39.
Omaha continued to lead for the duration of the third quarter until Western Illinois pulled even on a three-point basket from Blumer. Omaha pulled ahead on a three-pointer from Shaw, and the Mavericks led 62-59 after three quarter. Western Illinois trailed throughout the fourth until a three-point shot from Junior guard Michelle Farrow put the Fighting Leathernecks ahead by one.
Omaha kept the game close throughout the remainder of the fourth quarter, pulling within one point when Senior forward Abi Lujan drained a three-point basket to make the score 82-81 in favor of Western Illinois. After a Maverick foul on Clemens, in which she was only able to convert one of two free throws, Omaha raced down the court with 13 seconds to go. Unfortunately, the Mavericks were unable to put up a final shot due to the overwhelming defense put up by Western Illinois.
Western Illinois shot over 68 percent throughout the fourth quarter, including going 6-9 from beyond the three-point arc. Omaha, meanwhile, only shot 38 percent in the fourth, and went 3-9 from beyond the arc. For the game, Omaha shot almost 48 percent compared to Western Illinois’ 42 percent. However, the Fighting Leathernecks’ put up 13 points off turnover compared to the Mavericks’ five, and put back 19 second-chance points compared to only 12 for Omaha.
The Mavericks completed their first winning season at the Division 1 level, going 16-15 overall on the season, including 8-8 in regular season Summit League play. The team also advanced to their second consecutive Summit League Tournament semi-finals in the 2016-17 season.