Duhawks win 3 straight, clinch No. 2 seed
The Loras women’s basketball team was flying high after a huge road win against Buena Vista and returned home to finish their regular season slate with games against Central and Simpson. With victories in both matchups, the Duhawks clinched second place in the Iowa Conference and earned a first-round bye in the postseason tournament. This gave the team the opportunity to host the semifinals on their home court.
In the first of last week’s two games, Central (4-21, 1-13 in IIAC) came to Lillis Court. Senior guard Kaitlin Phillips looked to join the 1,000 point club as the ninth women’s basketball player to reach the milestone. Earlier this season, the Duhawks defeated the Dutch in Pella, so they were looking to complete a season sweep on their home court.
As the game got underway, Loras used lockdown defense and timely passing to jump out to an 18-9 lead after the first quarter. The second frame saw the Dutch cut into the Duhawks’ lead as Claire Marburger scored six straight, finishing with 27 on the night. Despite turnovers early in the quarter, the Duhawks maintained their advantage and made a bit of history along the way.
With 6:13 to go in the second quarter, Kaitlin Phillips drove into the paint and hit a layup, marking the 1,000th point in her illustrious Loras career. The game continued and saw back and forth action between the two sides. The Duhawks took a 30-28 lead into the locker room at halftime.
The second half got underway, and the Duhawks seemed to have a newfound boost of energy as they began to drain from long range. Senior guard Megan Jones knocked down a triple to open the third quarter, and it started a domino effect as the Duhawks converted on seven threes in the half. The women were able to widen their lead and take a double digit advantage into the final quarter, 48-38.
In the final frame, the Duhawks continued to hold their lead and worked the ball inside to junior Lori Obendorf, who picked up her 11th double-double of the season with 17 points and 13 rebounds on the night. Central tried to keep the game close, but Loras slammed the door shut and came out with a victory, 68-51.
The regular season finale brought the Simpson Storm (15-10, 8-6 in IIAC) to town as the Duhawks celebrated senior day. The team honored three seniors and their parents prior to tipoff: Abby Reinke, Megan Jones, and Kaitlin Phillips. The pregame emotion carried into the first quarter with the Duhawks jumping out to an early lead, but the Storm used the long ball to their benefit. With the help of a handful of threes, Simpson held a 15-9 lead after the first.
After the opening quarter, the Duhawks hit their stride and their defense stepped up to help gain the lead. Holding Simpson to only three points for the whole second quarter allowed Loras to garner offense and jump back in front, 24-18 at halftime.
The second half brought more of the same as the Duhawks used their size down low to dominate in the paint, pulling down 17 offensive rebounds and outscoring Simpson 32-16. The defense remained stingy and prevented Simpson from having any chance to get back into the game, holding them to only 25% shooting for the game. As time wound down, the Duhawks emptied out their bench and finished off their blowout victory, 60-39.
With back-to-back-to-back victories to finish the regular season, the Duhawks clinched the No. 2 seed in the conference tournament and a guaranteed first round bye. They also secured a home playoff game, in which they will play the winner of Tuesday’s Wartburg-Coe matchup on Thursday night in the AWC.
Kaitlin Phillips and the rest of the Duhawks knew they had to continue their strong team play and not take any opponents for granted along the way.
“I think this past week our team really took the mentality to take one game at a time,” Phillips said. “When it came to securing second place and gaining a home court advantage, we all knew that both of the games were crucial to win and not one was more important than the other; we needed both. So we poured our effort into Central, and once we secured that win, we turned our focus to Saturday.”
Loras finished with a 10-2 record at home, and with another home matchup looming on Thursday, they have to feel confident with their home court advantage and their ability to play strong at Lillis Court.
“I think getting to play another game on our home floor for the seniors, and the entire team really, comes down to comfort and confidence. We’re obviously used to our home floor and our routine playing here, and we’ve been able to get some pretty big wins on our floor as well. Getting to head into the postseason at home is always a good thing,” Phillips said.