Panthers fall to Bruins in MVC semis



Maya McDermott (0) played well in UNI’s final game, finishing with a team-high 19 points.

PAUL NOBLE, Sports Writer

The UNI women’s basketball team traveled to Moline, Ill., for the annual Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) Women’s Basketball Tournament, also known as Hoops in the Heartland. The Panthers defeated UIC in the quarterfinal round, 73-57, before falling to Belmont 69-62 in the semifinals. 

UNI’s first game was against the UIC Flames on Friday, March 10. The Flames came out hot in the first quarter against the Panthers, knocking down four of eight threes and taking a 20-17 lead to close the first quarter.

However, after the first quarter, it appeared the Panthers just needed some time to knock the rust off. In the second quarter, the Panthers opened with a 15-3 run highlighted by a Cailyn Morgan 3-pointer to bring the score to 32-23. The Flames rallied, but UNI still held a 35-30 lead to close the half.

UNI struggled to shoot the ball effectively from the field in the third quarter, as their field goal percentage was down to 33%, but the Panthers cashed in on 10 of 12 free throw attempts to maintain their lead and headed into the fourth up 54-46. 

The Flames came out swinging in the fourth and opened up on a 5-0 run to get within three of the Panthers, but the UNI women responded with a 17-2 run of their own to bring the score to 71-53. The Panthers finished the rest of the game strong and ended up clinching the victory, 73-57. Grace Boefelli led the Panthers with 23 points while Emerson Green and Rachael Heittola pitched in 11 and 10 points, respectively.

Saturday’s matchup for the Panthers was intense. The UNI women took on Belmont for the third time this season. Belmont, who posted a 2-0 record against the Panthers in the regular season, was too much for UNI once again as they posted a 69-62 victory.

The UNI women started out hot from behind the arc in the first quarter as they put in seven 3-pointers from six different Panthers, but the Bruins went toe to toe with UNI as Belmont only trailed 21-19 to end the first. 

The Panthers got their first points other than 3-pointers with 9:02 remaining in the second quarter after a Ryley Goebel steal and fast break layup. UNI continued to look strong and increased its lead to 34-28 after a Kayba Laube 3-pointer with 4:18 remaining in the half. The Bruins, however, finished the half on a 10-0 run to retake the lead, 38-34.

Maya McDermott put the team on her back to start the third quarter, scoring six of her 15 points on UNI’s first five possessions of the third quarter to tie things up at 40. The Bruins and Panthers battled through the rest of the third, but right when it looked like Belmont was starting to pull away again, Boffeli knocked down a 3-pointer with 49 seconds remaining in the quarter to bring the Panthers back within two.

The Panthers laid it all out on the line in the fourth and battled Belmont as the quarter saw four lead changes. The Panthers and Bruins were all tied up at 55 with 3:39 remaining, but Belmont would outscore UNI 14-7 in the last three minutes of play to defeat the Panthers, 69-62.

While UNI failed to win the Missouri Valley Conference and punch their ticket to the NCAA Tournament, they did earn a trip to the Women’s National Invitation Tournament (WNIT). UNI opened play in the WNIT on March 16, hosting Colorado State.