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Women’s basketball: Kansas City rallies in the fourth quarter, defeats Western Illinois 74-66

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UMKC huddles up before the start of the game. (Julia Kapros/Roo News)

From the moment senior guard Naomie Alnatas scored the first points of the game, Kansas City entered a classic slugfest against Western Illinois on Monday night. 

Graduate forward Brooklyn McDavid led the way early with some impressive post moves and physicality to get to the basket, helping the Roos take a 7-2 lead. However, the Leathernecks delivered a jab right into Kansas City’s lead. 

Both teams kept themselves within striking distance to start the game, but costly mistakes were made by the Roos when they tried to end the back-and-forth contest early. 

During the first quarter, the Roos got too antsy with the ball as they tried to keep up with Western Illinois’ stout defense. Missed shots and six turnovers gifted their opponents multiple chances at scoring. While they only allowed four points off of their turnovers, Kansas City could not stop the Leathernecks star senior guard Danni Nichols, who accounted for almost half of her team’s points in the first quarter. The Leathernecks would lead 15-13 to start the second quarter. 

Even when the Roos were down they still managed to deliver powerful punches and stay alive. 

Throughout the entire second quarter, both teams showcased their strengths. For Kansas City, it was their dominance inside the paint. The Roos outrebounded their opponent 14 to six and gave the team many opportunities to score on missed shots. They also dominated the Leathernecks in second-chance points with 13 (Western Illinois only had six). 

The Roos’ opponent countered with strong play from their bench, from which they scored 16 out of 17 points in the second quarter. The Leathernecks also nailed the majority of their fast breaks, with 12 points in comparison to Kansas City’s mere three. 

After an energy-reducing first couple of quarters, Western Illinois led the game 32-30. Kansas City forward McDavid led the way with 12 points and four rebounds. Kiara Bradley was the second-highest scorer with eight points and one block. 

Paige Bradford scored two points but dominated as a passer and inside the paint. Her five assists, seven rebounds and one steal were monumental in keeping Kansas City in close range. Mandy Willems found herself on the wrong end of the production side, allowing three turnovers and only three points in the first couple of quarters. 

When asked about the Leathernecks’ sticky defense and if any halftime adjustments were made, Roos head coach Jacie Hoyt said, “Credit to Western Illinois… It was just a matter of us adjusting to the style and getting a feel for it.”

Kiara Bradley (#4) and Mandy Willems (#21) defend a Western Illinois drive. (Julia Kapros/Roo News)

The Roos lost their offensive spark to start the third quarter. Kansas City couldn’t score a single point until the 7:50 mark, but even then they managed to score only 12 points prior to entering the long stretch. 

Western Illinois continuously caused issues for the Roos, as they clamped McDavid for 10 minutes. After starting the match cold, Willems picked up the pace as she scored four points and gathered three rebounds. 

However, the worst part of those endless ten minutes came at a final couple of minutes. After an Alnatas lay-up, Kansas City had a 42-39 lead with 2:38 left on the clock. Suddenly, missed shots and the poor defense allowed Western Illinois to go on a 9-0 run and lead 48-42. 

Even with how tremendously pressed the team was, coach Hoyt never lost confidence in her team. 

“They’re very resilient,” Hoyt said. “We always look at things in terms of how we view this as a challenge and take it head-on and not as an excuse.”

The fourth quarter started with the Leathernecks driving down the court. Nichols scurried around, looking to drive in a potential layup. However, McDavid stabbed her hand to the ball and knocked it out loose. After some back-and-forth passes, Willems found the star forward and let McDavid showcase those spectacular post moves. A simple fadeaway started a chain of events that Western Illinois couldn’t recover from. 

After yet another rebound by Bradford, Willems hit a beautiful rainbow three to cut the lead down to one. The Roos starters dialed up their chemistry up to an 11. Suddenly, the mix of Bradford and Bradley’s stunning work on the boards with Alnatas, McDavid and Willems scoring prowess equated to a 32-18 rally. 

By the final seconds, the Leathernecks’ looked hopeless in any kind of comeback attempt. The game ended 74-66. 

McDavid and Alnatas both scored 20+ points, as they caused constant headaches for the Leathernecks inside the paint. Meanwhile, Bradford’s showed up in the rebound column, snagging 15 in 36 minutes. She also created many offensive opportunities, totaling five assists. Finally, Willems heated up at the right moment, scoring the majority of her 13 points after halftime. 

In five days, Kansas City faced a gauntlet with their three opponents (Denver, Omaha and Western Illinois). They won all three matches to continue their recent hot streak. 

When asked about the plan going forward for the team, coach Hoyt said, “Right now our focus is on resting…Everything we are doing now is for the month of March.” 

After a short resting period, the Roos will return on Feb. 3 against St. Thomas on Thursday in St. Paul, Minnesota. 

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Cristian Martinez
Cristian Martinez, Sports Editor
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