SPRINGFIELD, Mo.– The number one ranked Drury Lady Panthers survived a furious fourth-quarter challenge from the Jennies of Central Missouri, claiming a 57-54 win to open the Oasis Hotel & Convention Center Classic Saturday evening at the O’Reilly Family Event Center.
In a physical battle, the Lady Panthers, trailing 52-48, outscored the Jennies 9-2 over the closing 2:30 of the contest, including six of six at the free-throw line to remain unbeaten on the young season and stand 5-0.
Senior Hailey Diestelkamp, who scored a game-high 22 points, made a pair of charity tosses with 2:22 remaining, then senior Daejah Bernard hit two from the line less than a minute later, to tie the game at 52-all. Then with 1:10 remaining, junior Kelsey Winfrey gave Drury the lead at 55-52 with a three-point shot from the left-wing.
Central Missouri pulled to within 55-54, then in the closing seconds, Drury’s defense forced a loose ball at midcourt, and the teams scrambled for possession as time expired. A technical foul called on Central Missouri lead to two more free throws and the final margin.
“The fact that we beat a veteran club with a couple of national champions in their lineup showed a lot about our character and our fight tonight,” said Drury head coach Molly Miller.
In addition to her 22 points, Diestelkamp also had a team-high nine rebounds, giving her 900 rebounds for her career, the first Drury player to ever hit that milestone.
“I knew Hailey was going to have a good game,” said Miller. “She was due, and that’s the Hailey you’re gonna see from here on out.”
Nija Collier topped the scoring for the Jennies (3-3) with 15 points. Drury forced Central Missouri into 28 turnovers for the game, and the Jennies claimed a slight 32-31 margin in rebounds.
The Lady Panthers led 11-10 after the opening period and maintained that one-point margin at halftime 27-26, as their full-court defensive pressure forced the Jennies into 16 turnovers in the first twenty minutes of action.
The Lady Panthers wrap up play in the Oasis Hotel & Convention Center Classic on Saturday when they host Northern Michigan at 5:30 pm at the O’Reilly Family Event Center.