By Roderick Wilbon, Sports Editor
The University of Missouri-St. Louis Lady Tritons came into the Great Lakes Valley Conference GLVC Tournament ranked fourth in the conference coming off a major win streak and the annihilation of every opponent they faced in the regular season. On March 1 at 8:30 p.m., the Lady Tritons stormed into the GLVC tournament to face Bellarmine.
The Tritons faced Bellarmine a few times in the regular season. Bellarmine is a well-known foe that did not fare well against UMSL. Bellarmine could not match up down in the post good. Jordan Fletcher, senior, marketing, was a beast on the boards and scoring the ball down low. Fletcher could not be contained and when she did not have an opening or was doubled. Her shooters came to her rescue. UMSL guards are always a three-point threat and you cannot leave them open.
Too many occasions Fletcher would kick to an open Arielle Jackson, junior, biology and communication, for a three-pointer. Sammie Sproul, senior, business, was struggling with her shot before coming into the GLVC tournament. That was at least an advantage for Bellarmine. Bellarmine left Sproul open too many times and one of her three-pointers went in the basket. The lights came on, Sproul gave her trademark smile. Her stroke and confidence came back and Bellarmine really did not stand a chance any longer.
The Tritons held Bellarmine to 29.1 percent field goal shooting for the game, while UMSL shot 49.2 percent. Jackson led the way with 19 points, two rebounds, three assists and two steals. Fletcher was a big part of the 42 total points in the paint, and nine rebounds. Alex Laporta, freshman, business administration, lead the team in 11 rebounds adding eight points to go along with that. UMSL went on to win the game 77-47 and advance to the semifinals to face Drury University.
“We pressured a little more than the last time we played them,” said Head Coach Katie Vaughn “That got us a few more possessions, but we’re just playing really good offense.” Vaughn would go on to say, “Sammie has been shooting the ball much better in our last couple games.” “I think we’re a good matchup for Drury our next opponent.”
On March 3 at 2:30 p.m., UMSL faced Drury in which both teams looked evenly matched. Both teams heavily pressured each other. The pressure cause plenty of turnovers from both teams. Fletcher and Jackson led the way for the team. Jackson with 24 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist, and 2 steals. Fletcher 16 points, 8 rebounds, 1 assist, and 2 blocks. Fletcher could not be stopped in the paint. Fouls were an issue though.
Most of every category the Lady Tritons had Drury dead to rights. UMSL shot 50.9 percent from the field, 40 points in the paint and 12 second chance points. The difference was points off turnovers. UMSL just had too many turnovers late in the game that Drury turned into points. Drury led the stat line 27-13 points off turnovers. Four seconds left in the game Jackson was fouled on a three-point attempt. The score was 67-64 and Jackson could tie the game on the made free throws. Hopes were still high for the team and she missed the first shot.
Jackson’s head went down in disbelief, the team rallied behind her and she would make the next two cleanly. 67-66 with three seconds left Drury had the ball all UMSL could was foul to stop the clock. Drury made their free-throws and UMSL had one play left to run after a timeout. It looked like a play drawn up for Jackson, but Kaitlynn Henning, junior, nursing, could not get it to her and had to take the last shot. A missed three-pointer would end the game and end the Tritons run in the GLVC Tournament.
“They pressure for 40 minutes and we had to weather that storm,” said Head Coach Katie Vaughn. “Possession to possession it could have gone either way, but give it to Drury they played hard.
“We had too many turnovers and missed key free throws,” said Shawnta Johnson, senior, communications. “They were the better team today and they won.”