Women’s basketball prepares for first MIAA quarterfinal

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Carly Fristoe

Sophomore Charisse Williams goes for a layup during the second half of Saturday's game against Northwest Missouri State. Photo by Carly Fristoe

For the first time in program history, the Lindenwood women’s basketball team has advanced to the quarterfinals of the MIAA conference tournament.

On Friday evening, Lindenwood, the tournament’s ninth seed, will take on Pittsburg State. The Gorillas were the MIAA’s top team in the regular season, and enter the tournament ranked as the No. 9 team in the country.

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Head coach Tony Francis discusses a play with his team during a media timeout in a game earlier this season.
Photo by Carly Fristoe

For Lindenwood, advancing to this stage of the tournament is uncharted territory. In each of the past three seasons, the team has qualified for the conference tournament, only to lose in the first round each time.

However, this year was a different story.

Tuesday evening, the team traveled to the University of Nebraska-Kearney to take on the Lopers. After a back-and-forth affair through three quarters, the Lions exerted their collective will in the final quarter, coming away with an 85-68 victory. Lindenwood outscored Nebraska-Kearney 27-10 in the final 10 minutes.

In that game, newly crowned MIAA Freshman of the Year Kallie Bildner collected her tenth double-double of the season, scoring 16 points and collecting 11 rebounds. She now has double-doubles in each of her last four games.

Though Bildner has grown into the offensive leader for the Lions, there are several other players who could make the team dangerous in the tournament, including Lindsay Medlen, Gabby Walker and Alex Haley.

Like Bildner, both Medlen and Walker are both freshmen. For the season, Medlen is averaging nine points per game, but is coming off the top game of the season. In the tournament opener against Nebraska-Kearney, Medlen scored 23 points, including a half-court buzzer beater.

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Freshman Gabby Walker pushes through two Northwest Missouri players while attempting a layup. Photo by Carly Fristoe

Walker is averaging more than 10 points per game this year and provides the team with a tough inside presence that gives the team an edge in many matchups.

Haley, a senior, has proven to be a calming force for the Lions this season, averaging eight points per game while manning the point guard position for the majority of each game. She is one of just two players to appear in every game this season.

One key theme for the Lions this season has been the team’s ability to take down the top teams in the conference. They have already defeated top seeds Central Missouri and Fort Hays State, and led Missouri Western until the final minutes of their final matchup.

This is a theme the team hopes to continue entering their quarterfinal match-up with Pittsburg State Friday evening at 6 p.m. The Gorillas won both games against Lindenwood this season, though their final game was decided by just nine points in a game Lindenwood played without Bildner.