Drake dealt Creighton a 54-50 defeat at the Knapp Center last Saturday afternoon, concluding both rivals’ regular season.
Drake dropped into seventh place at 15-14 overall and 9-9 in the Missouri Valley Conference. The Bulldogs take on Evansville at 7:05 p.m. on Thursday in the State Farm MVC Championship’s opening round.
The Bulldogs started last Saturday’s game with a defensive bang, thanks to sophomore guard Morgan Reid.
Just two minutes into the game, Reid snatched the Bluejays’ basketball. After sprinting the length of Ron Pearson Court, Reid drove to the basket for a layup, giving Drake an early 4-2 advantage.
With 12:33 remaining, Creighton knocked down back-to-back baskets for an 8-6 lead.
Then, redshirt freshman Carly Grenfell hit her offensive stride, scoring 10 points in less than three minutes. Grenfell nailed a layup, two free throws and two consecutive 3-pointers en route to 10 of her team-high 15 points.
Grenfell’s second trey secured Drake’s first double-digit advantage at 24-12.
“I wasn’t getting many looks to start with, but I came off a screen, and I made it, and I was just feeling it after that,” Grenfell said. “Everything went well from there.”
Creighton closed the gap with a 3-pointer at the 1:20 mark, but two Grenfell free throws again thwarted the Bluejays’ offensive push.
Drake entered the break with a 31-15 lead despite just 29.6 percent first-half shooting from the floor.
Creighton opened the second stanza with a 9-2 offensive run to close within 33-24. Despite Creighton’s unnerving offensive run, the Bulldogs maintained control, Grenfell said.
“It was getting a little tense, but we kept our composure, and we got the stops when we needed to,” she said.
Kyndal Clark’s jumper swished through the hoop at 17:32, again extending Drake’s advantage into double figures at 35-24.
Thirty seconds later, senior guard Amber Wollschlager answered Clark’s jumper with a bucket of her own, securing a 37-24 lead.
Two consecutive Creighton baskets cut Drake’s lead to 42-34.
Then, with 8:24 remaining, Creighton’s Ally Jensen nailed a 3-pointer.
One minute later, Creighton’s Jasmin Corbin drained a trey.
Jensen completed the Bluejays’ scoring run with another 3-pointer, closing Creighton within one point at 44-43.
Grenfell retaliated with a trey at the 4:18 mark, giving the Bulldogs a two-possession advantage at 49-45.
One play later, Clark drained a timely bucket from behind the arc, stretching Drake’s lead to seven points at 52-45.
“They kind of got off rotation, and I saw it coming,” Clark said. “The ball was being swung around the perimeter, and I knew it was going through Liza (Heap) before it would get to me, but I just kept saying, ‘one more, one more, one more,’ and Liza gave me a great pass, and I just let it fly, and it went in.”
Jensen nailed another 3-pointer with 1:35 remaining, but Heap’s last minute free throw sealed Drake’s four-point victory.
Three Drake seniors — Alex Montgomery, Rachael Hackbarth and Wollschlager — bid the Knapp Center a triumphant farewell last Saturday.
For the freshman Clark, beating Creighton for her senior captains was indescribable.
“I can’t even put into words how important it was,” she said. “They have been so good to us and put so much into this team, especially being captains. Every senior wants to go out with a win, so what better way for us to give that to them than by playing hard? I’m proud of them, and I’m glad we were able to give it to them.”
Grenfell also noted the necessity of Saturday’s victory.
“Rachael (Hackbarth) has had a heck of a career, and we wanted to go out on a high note for her, as well as for Amber (Wollschlager) and Alex (Montgomery),” Grenfell said. “We wanted to end on a high note. We put it all out there tonight, and we deserve that win.”
Hackbarth registered her 22nd double-double of the 2011-12 season with 10 points and a team-high 18 rebounds. She sits in first place nationally for the most double-doubles this season. Hackbarth also leads the MVC in scoring and rebounding.
Grenfell led Drake with 15 points.
“Carly Grenfell had a dream last night that she was going to score 35 points today, so even though she didn’t get her 35, we’ll take 15,” said Drake head coach Amy Stephens.
Wollschlager chipped in 13 tallies.
Jensen led the Bluejays with 12 points.
The State Farm MVC Championship is just three days away, and last Saturday’s win was a positive way to enter tournament play, Clark said.
“I’m proud of our team today,” she said. “We stayed strong. It’s the end of the season, so we don’t have anything else to give. It’s do or die at this point.”