Webster University’s women’s basketball team will have the opportunity to embark on its third St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SLIAC) Championship on Saturday. The team prepares to battle against the fourth-seeded Westminster College, a team also seeking their third championship.
The title game represents a battle of the underdogs. For the first time in women’s basketball history, the SLIAC Championship will be represented by the third-seed and fourth-seed, as both teams were able to win semifinal games despite being the lower ranked team.
The game will also offer historic implications for Webster University. A loss could mean that this is the final game for eight Webster University seniors. Head Coach Jordan Olufson will also have the chance to compile his 150th victory as a head coach, which would also give the university its first 20-win season since 2005. Gorloks senior and leading scorer Aley Lucas talked about her appreciation of such an opportunity.
“It means the world to me that we are in the championship in my senior year,” Lucas said. “As a team, we have worked hard all season to get to where we are now. I just hope we can finish strong.”
Webster University punched its ticket into the game with a 56-52 victory over Eureka University in the semifinals on Friday night. In that game, the Gorloks held the Eureka Red Devils well below their season average of 80.0 points per game. The Gorloks also held SLIAC Player of the Year Hayley Reneau to just seven points on 25 percent shooting.
The Gorloks defense allows 60.5 points per game, so the team will be looking to build off of their efforts in the semifinals. The Westminster Blue Jays enter the game averaging 74.5 points per game.
The two universities enter Saturday night’s game with close comparisons. Webster and Westminster split a pair of meetings in the regular season, with both games being decided by five points or less. After 55 all-time games, the Gorloks narrowly own a three-game edge (29-26), though Westminster has won three of five postseason meetings.
During their victory, the Gorloks used scoring depth, which saw eight different players contribute to the point total. The bulk of the scoring is handled by double-digit scorers Aley Lucas and Taylor Lucas, but as Friday night’s victory showed, the team benefits from production from players such as senior Kelsey Miller (who hit the game-clinching layup on Friday) and senior Megan Brandt. Freshman forward Darieana Hunter also talked about what the possibility of a championship would mean for both the seniors, but also for the newer players.
“It would mean a lot. It’ll be a great way to start my career, and a better way for the seniors to end theirs,” Hunter said. “All the hard work and long practices will have paid off and it doesn’t get much better than that.”
The first meeting took place on Wednesday, Nov. 29 in Fulton, MO. In that game, Taylor and Aley Lucas combined for 44 points, though the team narrowly fell short of a comeback victory. The Gorloks overcame a double-digit halftime deficit to force overtime but lost the game 77-72.
The Gorloks were able to exact revenge two months later on Saturday, Jan. 20. With homecourt advantage, the Gorloks forced 30 turnovers and took a close 63-60 victory.
Webster and Westminster will also be in search of both their third SLIAC Championship and a trip to the Division III NCAA Tournament on Feb. 26. The Gorloks achieved the feat in both 2005 and 2011, with early eliminations in the previous five years.