By: Ed Beach
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Drury and Ashland meet for the fourth time in an NCAA-II tournament game on Monday when the two teams collide in the Midwest Regional championship game at 6:05 pm in the O’Reilly Family Event Center.
The Lady Panthers are 21-1, are the number two seed in the region, and ranked second nationally in the latest NCAA-II coaches’ poll. After a first-round bye, Drury advanced with a 66-51 win over Truman State on Saturday in the second round.
Ashland is 16-8 and seeded fifth in the region. The Eagles got past fourth-seeded Grand Valley State on Friday with a 68-60 win, then defeated the number one seed, Michigan Tech, 74-65 on Saturday.
Each of the four games between the two teams in the all-time series has been in the national tournament with all three prior encounters in Ashland, Ohio. Drury defeated the Eagles 86-60 in the second round of the 2016 tournament, then fell to Ashland a year later, 74-62, in the regional finals. The two teams met again for the regional title in 2018, with Ashland winning 79-73 in a game decided in the final 12 seconds.
Both teams were in the Midwest Regional in 2019, but the Eagles fell in the opening round. In 2020, Drury was ranked number one nationally at 32-0, Ashland was ranked second in the country and was 31-0, but the tournament was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The winner of Monday’s game advances to the NCAA-II Elite Eight in Columbus, Ohio, March 23-26. The final eight teams will be seeded, and the bracket will be announced later this week.
Lady Panthers NCAA-II tournament history
The Drury Lady Panthers are in the NCAA-II tournament for the 18th time in their 21 seasons. Drury qualified for the event last year, but the event was canceled.
The Lady Panthers are 31-16 all-time in the national event with four regional championships, one national semifinal appearance, and one national Runner-Up finish (2004). Drury is in the regional championship game for the fifth straight tournament and for the 11th time in program history. The Lady Panthers are 4-6 all-time in this round, having won regional titles in 2019, 2014, 2007, and 2004.
The Lady Panthers won their fifth straight GLVC championship on March 7, with a 76-60 win over Truman State. No team in GLVC history had won more than three titles in a row when Drury accomplished that feat in 2019, and now they have added two more championships to the streak.
Drury’s fifth championship in a row also came with a new head coach as Amy Eagan continued the run after Molly Miller guided the team to the previous four titles.
This year’s title was Drury’s eighth GLVC championship and their 10th conference title, overall counting two in the Heartland Conference.
Paige Robinson cracks DU’s top 10 on all-time scoring list
Junior Paige Robinson became the 18th player in program history to top 1,000 points in her career when she reached the milestone on Nov. 29 as part of a 37-point game at Lindenwood. The Bethany, Illinois native carries 1,428 points into her next game and is 9th on Drury’s all-time scoring list. She passed Hope Hunt (2000-05) on Feb. 27 when she scored 20 points at Quincy.
Drury All-Time Scoring Leaders
1. Hailey Diestelkamp (2016-present) 2,321
7. Jill Curry (2000-04) 1,523
8. Lindsay Ballweg (2007-10) 1,502
9. Paige Robinson (2018-pres.) 1,428
10. Hope Hunt (2000-05) 1,350
11. Heather Harman (2014-18) 1,229
12. Magen Brunson (2000-04) 1,184
13. Melanie Oliver (2007-10) 1,181
14. Annie Armstrong (2013-16) 1,179
15. Allison Regier (2003-06) 1,114
Robinson now 5th in all-time three’s; Payton Richards is 8th
Paige Robinson ranks 5th in Drury history in three-pointers made. She has 208 career treys while senior Payton Richards is 9th in that category with 190.
Drury All-Time Leaders – 3’s
1. Katie Pritchard (2008-13) 255
2. Hope Hunt (2000-05) 213
3. Bethanie Funderburke (2010-14) 212
4. Alice Heinzler (2014-18) 210
5. Paige Robinson (2018-pres.) 208
6. Lindsay Ballweg (2007-10) 198
7. Paige Wilson (2013-17) 196
8. Payton Richards (2017-pres.) 190
9. Carrie Colwell (2000-03) 181
Richards cracks top 10 in assists
Payton Richards is tied for 7th on Drury’s all-time list in career assists. She enters her next game 14 away from Katie Pritchard for seventh on the career assist chart.
Drury All-Time Leaders – Assists
1. Daejah Bernard (2016-20) 607
7. Katie Pritchard (2008-13) 317
8. Payton Richards (2017-pres.) 303
9 Annie Armstrong (2013-16) 302
10. Jill Curry (2000-04) 269
DRURY LADY PANTHERS
Record: 21-1 (17-1 GLVC), #2 NCAA-II
Midwest Regional Seed: #2
NCAA-II Bid: Automatic (GLVC Champion)
Head Coach: Amy Eagan (1st year, 21-1/12th year, 208-143)
Last Game: Won vs. Truman St. 66-51 (March 13 at DU)
Streak: Won 11
Record: 16-8 (11-7 GLIAC)
Midwest Regional Seed: #5
NCAA-II Bid: At-Large
Head Coach: Kari Pickens (3rd year, 78-11)
Last Game: Won vs. Michigan Tech 74-65 (March 13, 2021)
Streak: Won 2
NCAA-II Elite Eight — March 23-26
Greater Columbus Convention Center — Columbus, Ohio