In the most thrilling game of the tournament to date, the USD women’s basketball team rallied from 17 down to win on a last second shot by Raeshel Conteras and advance into a second round duel with the Jackrabbits.
Western Illinois started the game, looking as though they could not miss early in the first half. Despite the Leathernecks’ onslaught, USD did not give up and mounted a series of runs that brought them into the break trailing just. After the Leathernecks repelled their first charge, the Coyotes again answered and pulled to within five going into the half.
The second half saw nine lead changes and three ties between the two teams as they battled back and forth.
“I hate that Western Illinois had to lose that game because they fought so hard,” USD head coach Amy Williams said. “Every time we go toe-to-toe with that team, it’s just a battle. There’s a million lead changes. It feels like it’s just hard-fought battles.”
Western Illinois’ Ashley Luke finished with the third highest point total in Summit League Tournament history and set a new career high with her 35 points. She also came down with 13 rebounds for the double-double.
Kelly Stewart gave the Coyotes a big lift of the bench with her four three-pointers, scoring 14 in the game. Nicole Seekamp was the biggest contribute for USD, tallying 26 points, seven rebounds, and nine assists.
Nevertheless, the night belonged to Contreras who scored 22 in the game, including a last-second game-winning shot when the Leatherneck defense collapsed on Seekamp, and Contreras received Seekamp’s pass.
“In that time out, we were going to go with our first and second all-conferences players – Polly and Nic (Nicole) off of ball screen action and I felt really confident they could make a play and Nicole did,” said Williams. “The defense collapsed on her. She made an unselfish play. She kicked it to Rashael. Rashael makes big shots all the time when we work situations in practice and she hit a big one for us here today.”
Williams also said that it was the team’s plan to wait for a last second shot, though she did admit that Contreras’ shot left her hand a little later than she would have planned it.
With the win, the Coyotes will meet a familiar foe as they are now set to duel with the Jackrabbits tomorrow at noon, their third and most important matchup of the year.
“Wish I didn’t have to play kids 30 plus minutes on the day before we’re supposed to face a rested team, but certainly I think if our girls can’t get up to play against the reigning champion of this tournament, then I don’t know if we will ever be able to get them up,” said Williams.