The Drury Lady Panthers are going back to the NCAA D-II FInal Four.
The Lady Panthers beat Charleston 74-66 to go back to the National Semifinals for the first time since 2019.
Drury will play second-seeded Lander Wednesday at 5 p.m.
You can read more with a press release below…
COLUMBUS, Ohio.— It didn’t appear to be Drury’s day during the opening quarter of the Lady Panthers NCAA-II Quarterfinal contest against Charleston on Tuesday at the Greater Columbus Convention Center Columbus, Ohio. The Golden Eagles hit 11 of 15 first-quarter shots, including 5 of 7 three-point attempts, and nearly buried Drury with a 27-10 lead after 10 minutes.
But the Lady Panthers cut into the Golden Eagles lead in the second quarter and rallied from the early deficit to win 74-66 and advance to the national semifinals on Wednesday at 5 pm (Central).
Drury’s opening quarter not only saw Charleston pour in baskets, but the Lady Panthers found themselves in foul trouble as Paige Robinson, named NCAA-II Player of the Year earlier in the day, picked up two first-quarter fouls. Azia Lynch also missed most of the opening quarter with an injury.
Lynch would later return, and Drury chipped away at the Golden Eagles, outscoring them 21-7 in the second quarter to pull within three at halftime, 34-31. It was only the second time this season and the fourth time in three years DU found themselves behind at the half.
The Lady Panthers took their first lead of the game with 5:26 left in the third quarter on an Azia Lynch lay-up that put Drury up 48-46.
After the lead went back-and-forth, the Lady Panthers took control with an 11-0 run early in the final period. Drury built a 10-point lead down the stretch, and the Golden Eagles could get no closer than five in the last three minutes of play.
Robinson, who had three points at halftime, ended the game with a game-high 18. Azia Lynch scored 12 of her 13 in the second half as Drury had five players in double-figures. Katie Kirkhart added 15 points, Emily Parker contributed 13, and Payton Richards had 10 points. Alana Findley pulled down a career-high 10 rebounds.
“We just kept telling them to keep chipping away,” said Drury head coach Amy Eagan. “I thought changing up our defense really helped us. We got out of our press really quickly because we couldn’t match up with them athletically, then changing to a zone helped slow them down.”
Brooklyn Pannell, the nation’s second-leading scorer averaging 23.8 points per game, led Charleston with 14 points. Erykah Russell, the Golden Eagles 6-2 center, added 12 points but picked up her third foul in the second quarter and committed her fifth with 2:44 remaining in the game.
The Lady Panthers were out-shot in the game as Charleston connected on 47 percent, hitting 26 of their 55 attempts, while Drury was 25 for 57 and 44 percent. The DU defense stymied Charleston in the second quarter, holding them to seven points on 2 for 11 shooting. The Golden Eagles went 5 for 15 in the final period as the Lady Panthers outscored them 20-11.
“This group has been resilient all year,” said Eagan. “We’ve said from our first meeting of the year that the team that can stay positive through the hard times that are going to come in dealing with the COVID stuff will be the most successful. I think that this group has such a belief in each and in themselves that they are just refuse-to-lose type of kids.”
Drury will play second-seeded Lander in the NCAA-II semifinals. Lander won their quarterfinal game with an 88-76 over Azusa Pacific. Tipoff is at 5 pm (Central) in the Greater Columbus Convention Center in Columbus, Ohio.