SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – There truly is madness in the month of March for basketball fans.
Women’s basketball fans have been rooting on two teams deep into the NCAA tournaments on both the Division one and Division two levels.
The Missouri State Lady Bears are on their way to Chicago to play Stanford in the NCAA division one Sweet 16.
The Drury Lady Panthers season ended here at Alumni Hall in Columbus Ohio.
Lubbock Christian played a tough physical game and put Drury in a hole early, and the Lady Panthers could not recover and their season ended on this floor two victories shy of a national championship.
Molly Miller, Drury coach said, ”Sport is unique and special, the highs are high and the lows are low.”
The 2018-19 Drury women’s basketball season was indeed something special.
A 35-and-1 campaign that ended in the N-C-A-A D2 National Semifinals.
Lubbock Christian attacked the top-ranked Lady Panthers with a physical offensive attack and went on a 12-nothing run in the first quarter.
Drury played from behind most of the night.
A Payton Richards 3 gave the Lady Panthers a 20-19 lead early in the second quarter.
It was their last lead of the night.
The Lady Chaps ended Drury’s season 69-60.
Despite this lowest of lows, the national player of the year Hailey Diestelkamp knows this was a special season.
Hailey Diestelkamp, Drury junior said, ”We had a blast on this journey. It came to an end quicker then we wanted. At the end of the day, we had a blast. And it’s all about the memories.”
And this was a season full of memories.
A 35 game winning streak.
Regular season and post season conference champs.
National coach and player of the year honors.
Most wins in program history.
Not to mention a slew of single-season records by Diestelkamp, Daejah Bernard and others.
Miller said, ”You’re looking at the program as a whole, you’re looking at some of the best people I’ve been around in terms of investment, work ethic and accountability. These kids let me coach them and let me hug them. And that’s a special bond.“
Drury loses only one senior, the core of the team returns.
Diestelkamp said ”Even though we had so many happy times, we had to experience those sad times together. I think this is a time that we get closer together, but it’ll make us better. We have another year under our belt. Next year will be something special as well.”
Molly Miller’s name will pop up in regard to coaching vacancies at the Division one level.
She’s 148-and-17 in 5 years with five NCAA trips.
But keep this in mind.
Miller said, ”You know playing at Drury and coaching at your alma mater is a dream come true. Those people have watched me play, watched me grow up. Gosh it just means the world to me.”
This Drury team will be just as strong next year.
There was only one senior Lucia Fernandez, Hailey Diestelkamp, Daejah Bernard will lead this team back onto the court in November.
And who knows they could be back on the floor playing at this stage again next year.
Now the attention turns north to Chicago where the Missouri State Lady Bears will continue their Cinderella run.
We’ll have more on Kellie Harper’s team on Friday.