By: Ed Beach
The Drury women’s basketball program is in its 21st season, and in that time, they have established an all-time record of 544-110, and their .832 winning percentage is the best mark in all of Division II women’s basketball.
However, the biggest prize of all, the National Championship, has eluded the Lady Panthers. On Friday, they get the second chance in program history to obtain that title.
Drury, ranked second in the nation and the number three seed in the Elite Eight, enters the championship game 24-1. The lone loss for the Lady Panthers came on Feb. 2 in a home setback to Rockhurst, 75-69, and since, Drury has won 14 straight. The Lady Panthers were an automatic qualifier to the NCAA-II tournament, winning their fifth straight Great Lakes Valley Conference championship, and they advanced to the Elite Eight by taking down Ashland 88-69 on March 15.
In the Elite Eight, Drury has trailed throughout the first half of both games but advanced through the national quarterfinals 74-66 over Charleston (WV), then reached the championship game with a 74-65 victory over Lander.
Lubbock Christian has been ranked number one nationally since Feb. 9, the first coaches’ poll following Drury’s Feb. 2 loss. The Chaparrals are undefeated at 22-0; they won the Lone Star Conference, then got to the Elite Eight with a 78-65 win over Southwestern Oklahoma St. in the South Central Regional championship game.
Lubbock Christian defeated Daemen in the quarterfinals, 66-49, then rallied from 10 points behind in the first half to edge Central Missouri, 63-61, in the semifinals.
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 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Lady Panthers are 34-16 all-time in the national event with five regional championships, two national semifinal appearances, and one national Runner-Up finish (2004). This year, Drury reached the regional championship game for the fifth straight tournament and for the 11th time in program history.
The Lady Panthers are making their fifth Elite Eight appearance as they have won regional championships in 2021, 2019, 2014, 2007, and 2004.
Drury is in the National Championship game for the first time since 2004. The Lady Panthers lost their lone trip to the title game in a 75-72 loss to California (Pa.).
During their Elite Eight run, the Lady Panthers improved to 3-2 in the national quarterfinal round, and they improved to 2-1 in the semifinals with their win on Wednesday.
Paige Robinson closes in 1,500 points; Lynch cracks 1,000
Junior Paige Robinson enters the final game of 2020-21 ranked 9th on Drury’s all-time scoring list and is seven points away from becoming the 9th Lady Panther ever to top 1,500 career points. Azia Lynch passed 1,000 career points on March 15 in the Midwest Regional championship game and ranks 17th in Drury’s all-time scoring chart.
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.) 1,493
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
16. Alice Heinzler (2014-18) 1,078
16. Ja’Nell Jones (2007-11) 1,056
17. Azia Lynch (2017-pres.) 1,045
Robinson now 4th in all-time three’s; Payton Richards is 7th
Paige Robinson is tied for fourth in Drury history in three-pointers made. She has 211 career treys while senior Payton Richards is seventh in that category with 197.
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. Paige Robinson (2018-pres.) 211
5. Alice Heinzler (2014-18) 210
6. Lindsay Ballweg (2007-10) 198
7. Payton Richards (2017-pres.) 197
8. Paige Wilson (2013-17) 196
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 six 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.) 313
9 Annie Armstrong (2013-16) 302
DRURY LADY PANTHERS
Record: 24-1 (17-1 GLVC), #2 NCAA-II
Elite Eight Seed: #3
NCAA-II Bid: Automatic (GLVC Champion)
Head Coach: Amy Eagan (1st year, 24-1/12th year, 211-143)
Road to the Elite Eight/NCAA-II Championship: (Midwest Regional) 1st round- bye, 2nd round- W, Truman St., 66-51, 3rd round- W, Ashland 88-69, (Elite Eight) Quarterfinals- W, Charleston 74-66, Semifinals- W, Lander 74-65
LUBBOCK CHRISTIAN CHAPARRALS
Record: 22-0 (13-0 Lone Star), #1 NCAA-II
Elite Eight Seed: #1
NCAA-II Bid: Automatic (Lone Star Conference Champion)
Head Coach: Steve Gomez (18th year, 446-125)
Lubbock Christian– (South Central Reg.) 1st round- bye, 2nd round- W Cameron 96-66, 3rd round- W SW Oklahoma St. 78-65, (Elite Eight) Quarterfinals- W Daemen 66-49, Semifinals- W, Central Missouri 63-61
Lubbock Christian 1-0
Lubbock Chr. 69 Drury 60 (NCAA-II Semifinals, March 27, 2019 – Columbus, Ohio)