Zamarripa is a junior news-Internet and English double major and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
There’s so much that can be said about the Bulldogs’ improbable run to the MVC championship game. But as I’m writing this, I’m still trying to figure out how in the world the Bulldogs pulled-off this kind of performance.
What a team, what a performance.
Talk about having a team buy-in to a philosophy, to a brand of basketball, about a team that trusted each other every step of the way.
Drake came awfully close to accomplishing the rare feat in conference tournaments — win four games in four days. To that, I applaud this team and I applaud this coaching staff.
I said it before, if head coach Amy Stephens was able to pull this off, this would have been her best coaching job ever. Stephens might not have been able to win it all, but I’m inclined to say this title run stacks up with the Bulldogs’ magical run in 2007.
Back then, Drake was a sixth seed and incredibly shorthanded. This year, the Bulldogs were a seventh seed, young and very shorthanded.
Try and put the Bulldogs’ performance in the context of their rare circumstances. This team had two players quit along the year: junior Kayla Person and redshirt junior Brittnye McSparron. Both players were starters and a major part of the Bulldogs’ rotation.
Add to that, the injuries to talented freshman Symone Daniels and to emergent junior Stephanie Running. This left the Bulldogs with a nine-man roster that featured three freshmen.
Throughout the tournament, Drake played for the most part with a six-man rotation. You are telling me that this squad played four games in four days with six players? That’s incredible. Senior Rachael Hackbarth played a total of 158 minutes out of 160 minutes.
This is a team that refused to quit and refused to let adversity get the best of them.
Drake was statistically one of the worst offenses in the MVC. Their lack of outside scoring and penetration forced the Bulldogs to micro-manage possessions time and time again and to rely on the kind of attention Hackbarth attracted in the middle.
But Drake had the third-best defense in the MVC and one of the best rebounding margins. They also defend the three-point line like mad men.
Even when I consider all of that, I have no idea how Drake pulled this off.
They defeated the second and third seeds of the tournament, Illinois State and Wichita State. Both teams had owned the Bulldogs in the regular season.
That didn’t matter. Drake won ugly in every single game leading to Sunday and I loved it.
They were down by eight late in the second half against ISU and came back to win it. The Bulldogs don’t shoot a lot of three-pointers. They made their first six against Wichita State.
Against Creighton, they just could not hit enough shots to keep up with the hot three-point shooting from the Bluejays. But they laid it all-out at all times.
I hope the Bulldogs get an NIT bid. They have a strong non-conference schedule and reached the final of their conference tournament. That should be enough to get them in.
I wish nothing more than for this team to have a chance to keep playing. They represented Drake with incredible poise and grit and we all need to celebrate their incredible run. Even if it didn’t end with an MVC title.