Drury held off a strong Northeastern State charge down the stretch and pulled away for a 65-57 victory over the Riverhawks in a matchup of traditional national D-II women's basketball powers Wednesday night at the O'Reilly Family Event Center.
The Lady Panthers, fueled by a whopping 48-35 rebounding advantage over NSU, improved to 4-1 on the season and snapped a three-game losing streak against the RiverHawks (3-3), now first-year members of the MIAA.
Katie Pritchard scored 18 points, Bethanie Funderburk added 11 points and eight rebounds (for a third straight game), and Abby Bracker came off the bench to snag a career-best 13 rebounds as the Lady Panthers ended a few years of frustration against an NSU team that had won 25 or more games each of the last three seasons and made it to at least the second round of the NCAA-II tourney.
"It kind of feels like a monkey jumped off our back," Drury coach Steve Harold said. "They've been our nemesis, and had given us a hard time for a few years. I'm proud of the way our team fought, scrapped and beat a good basketball team tonight."
Last year in Tahlequah, Okla., Northeastern State raced to a 33-12 halftime advantage and went on to beat Drury 56-37, a record-low for total points in a game in the history of the Lady Panthers' program.
This time, Drury nearly equalled that output in just one half, grabbing a 34-25 advantage over the RiverHawks at the break. Pritchard had 10 points - hitting all three of her 3-point tries in the opening half - and Sanayika Shields scored all seven of her points in the opening half to pace the Lady Panthers.
Drury would lead by as much as 15 points (51-36 with 12:26 to go) before Northeastern started a final charge. The RiverHawks had it down to three (58-55) with 31 seconds left, but Williamson drew a big charge at the defensive end, and Drury made 7 of 8 free throws from that point on to put the game away.
Drury shot just 39 percent from the field (22 of 57), but the RiverHawks were held to 34-percent accuracy (21 of 62). Pritchard - who also had a game-high six assists - hit 6 of 12 from the field and 3 of 5 from behind the arc to lead the Lady Panthers.
Tosha Tyler had 17 points and Taylor Lewis added 14 points for NSU, which committed just 12 turnovers while forcing DU into 15.
Bracker had eight of her game-high 13 rebounds in the first half and - after posting an 11-point, 10-rebound double-double against Union on Saturday - now has pulled down 31 boards in her last three games. She eclipsed her previous high of 12 set against UMSL her sophomore season.
"When Abby's arms are above her shoulders, I don't think anybody ever takes a rebound from her," Harold said. "I feel confident with her in there, and I thought again she gave us a great effort and really came in and just stabilized things for us a lot. She didn't score a lot, but when you get 13 rebounds, we've definitely got a spot for you out there."
The Lady Panthers also had a season-high nine blocked shots, including two each from Bracker, Shields and Kalea Parks.
Drury returns to action on Saturday, visiting Missouri Southern (5-1) in a 1 p.m. non-conference tipoff in Joplin.
It was a tough weekend for our local teams in Blue Springs.
Both Springfield Catholic and Nixa went 0-for-2 on the weekend, forcing them to settle for fourth place in Class 3 and Class 1 respectively.
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