Leathernecks Fall in Summit League Championships

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – A season of adversity filled with ups and downs for Western Illinois (15-15, 9-8) came to a close in The Summit League Championships quarterfinals on Sunday (March 8) in 74-66 setback to Oral Roberts (15-15, 10-7). 

"This team has been through more than probably any team I've ever coached, head coach JD Gravina said. "We had some significant injuries right at the start of league play, and a lot of people wrote us off, so our players deserve a lot of credit for sticking with it. When three of your four seniors get hurt, you lose leadership on the court, and I thought Olivia did a great job bearing that load. I'll miss her probably more than any player I've ever coached."

"Our team theme is Our Story Continues, so I'm excited to see where our seniors' lives go. We were still pretty young this year. We have to score around the basket, and it's hard to remember that Evan Zars is just a sophomore. I think we have the pieces in place and recruits coming in to be excited about the future."

Western Illinois concludes the 2019-20 season 15-15 overall and 9-8 in Summit League play and finished in a three-way tie for third place.  An 11-3 mark at home, tied for third all-time for home victories in a season. 

In the third round of the battle, the opposition began the fourth quarter hot holding WIU to four points in the first five minutes while pouring in 14 points to own its largest lead of the game, 68-51. The Leathernecks scrapped away and brought it back to a six-point game two separate occasions, but just ran out of time.

Olivia Kaufmann concluded her 117th game in the Purple and Gold with her 18th career game with 20 points and fourth straight. She finishes 12th all-time in scoring with 1,251 points. Carla Flores ended with 17, one away from her career-high, and completed a perfect 3-3 from three-point land. 

"I thought Oral Roberts played really well and it was a bad day to have a bad shooting day. I'm really proud of this team to tie for third in a tough league after the adversity we went through."

Neither side got on the board until Grace Gilmore drove for the layup at 6:48 and grabbed a 2-0 lead. Three-pointers from Flores and Kaufmann put Western ahead 14-12 at the end for the first 10 minutes. 

The deep ball became the trend for the Leathernecks in the second. Three of the five field goals were from behind the arc as Flores hit her second and Zars drilled one in the corner. With five lead changes and five times the game was tied, Oral Roberts pushed ahead with a 10-0 run to head into half 37-28.

Two successful consecutive trips from the charity to begin the third quarter brought the deficit to five, 37-32. The Golden Eagles pushed back ahead, then a 9-1 Western run started by a Gilmore jumper at 5:10 made it a four-point game. However, ORU strung together back-to-back baskets, owning a seven-point (54-47) advantage into the fourth quarter.

For Annabel GraettingerAvery HammKyra Washington and Kaufmann, the outing marked the final time in the Purple and Gold. All that can be said is thank you for everything.

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