Summit League Semi-Finals Preview: Kansas City vs. Omaha

Head Coach Dionnah Jackson-Durrett looks to make noise in her first year in Kansas City.

Cristian Martinez, Sports Editor

  The Kansas City Roos’ women’s basketball team will face their toughest task yet as they play the sixth-seeded Omaha Mavericks in the semi-finals of the Summit League tournament.

  The match-up will take place on March 6 at 3 p.m. at the Denny Sanford PREMIER Center.

  After defeating the Denver Pioneers and the second-seeded North Dakota State Bison in dramatic fashion, the Roos’ “Mighty Seven” look to head to the finals for the first time in over 10 years. 

  Head Coach Dionnah Jackson-Durrett is unfazed by the challenge ahead but knows the difference between the tourney and the regular season.

  “I’ve been in March Madness with other teams,” Jackson-Durrett said. “When March gets here and it’s the postseason, everybody is playing their best basketball.”

  The Mavericks, who performed at a high level, defeated the North Dakota Fighting Hawks 84-81 in their first game in the tournament. 

  Omaha’s squad contains a second-team all-summit center in graduate Elena Pilakouta. The towering athlete from Cyprus made her presence felt throughout the game, leading her team in assists with three, scoring 14 points and snatching 12 rebounds. 

  Starter Kennedi Grant achieved 18 points, four rebounds, an assist and a steal. The sophomore guard had a knee injury scare in the second half but returned to play for 30+ minutes. 

  Five of the eight players in Omaha scored 10+ points, leading the way to a three-point victory.

  Kansas City will have its hands full with a team that has all of its players contributing. While the Mavericks’ roster has 11 guards, their ability to move around the court and create scoring opportunities will give the Roos problems. 

  Even though they’ll face a reeling squad, the Roos are prepared for what’s to come. 

  Since the start of practice on Friday, Jackson-Durrett advised her team on what mentality to have in the postseason.

  “Anything can happen, and anybody can win,” Jackson-Durrett said. “That was what that first practice was about and that’s how we continue to think.”

  Kansas City, down to seven players, rely heavily on their trio of phenomenal guards. Graduates E’Lease Stafford and Manna Mensah along with junior Sanaa’ St. Andre contributed heavily to both wins versus their conference rivals.

  Stafford consistently showed up, putting up 11 and 17 points respectively. Her 10 total rebounds throughout the tournament came clutch late in both games, erasing any kind of scoring opportunity for her opponents. 

  Mensah is the star of the “Mighty Seven.” Her 24 points in the second half helped keep the Roos’ hopes alive against Denver. She finished the game with a career-high 30 points, six rebounds and three assists. She continued her fiery streak with a 25-point performance against North Dakota State. Her facilitation and defense shined in her subsequent showing, adding five assists and two steals. 

  While St. Andre didn’t stuff the stat sheet like her fellow teammates, her situational awareness propelled the Roos throughout the series. Her one-legged three-point shot won the game for Kansas City against the Pioneers. Even though she only saw the court for 10 minutes, the shifty guard slithered inside the paint for eight points against the Bison. In that game, she also added two assists and one rebound. 

  If Omaha decides to focus on any of the guards, players like forwards Tamia Ugass and Machia Mullens will be a force in the paint. Ugass amassed 10+ rebounds and a block in both games. When opponents crowd the lanes, the towering Roo showcases her smooth jump shot, averaging just over eight points in the playoffs. 

  Mullens plays a massive role as a two-way glass cleaner. In both games, the junior forward wrangled 20 rebounds, the second-best on the team. Her ability to mirror her opponents helped Kansas City come out on top. 

  Entering the tournament as the true underdog, Kansas City is now in a position to make history in Sioux Falls. 

  The Roos will potentially have up to two players return, as guards Rain Green and Ava Murphy may travel up north and suit up for the key match.

  Even if they don’t play, Kansas City’s first-year head coach will have her players ready for the heavyweight bout.

  “We got who we got, and they’re coming with everything they got,” Jackson-Durrett said.

  To watch the game, go to To listen to the live play-by-play call of the game, go to the RooTV channel.