Hilltop Views

Underestimated St. Edward’s women’s basketball team has improbable conference run

Amanda Gonzalez

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Editor’s Note: This story has been edited throughout.

If there is anything that this past weekend proved, it’s not to underestimate anyone.

The underdog spirit of fortitude was with the St. Edward’s University women’s basketball team throughout the Heartland Conference Championship Tournament from March 3-6.

Creating not one, but two upset victories in the preliminary rounds, the No. 6 St. Edward’s then finished their season with a tough loss in the championship game against Lubbock Christian University, the top Division II team in the country. Broadcasted nationally on ESPN3, the championship game was historic, as St. Edward’s became the first No. 6 team to ever compete in a Heartland Conference championship, per SEU Athletics.

Here’s a recap on the Hilltoppers’ conference victories against No. 2 University of Arkansas-Fort Smith and No. 3 Texas A&M-International University, their final game of the season and what is to come for next year.

Quarterfinals:

Strong three-point shooting proved pivotal in the Hilltoppers’ debut conference game on March 3 against A&M-International.

St. Edward’s shot 55 percent from behind the arc and went a combined 11-for-20, per SEU Athletics. Junior Lexi Fatheree went 4-for-6, sophomore Kayla Goebel went 3-for-5, freshman Bailey Hill went 3-for-6 and sophomore Haley Joly went 2-for-1.

After winning the quarterfinals 71-65, Head Coach J.J Riehl credited the team’s defense, confidence and several bench players.

Semifinals:

Never trailing throughout the entire game, St. Edward’s stood their ground against the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith, on March 5.

Past regular season games against Fort Smith were unsuccessful, so the coaches changed the  offensive game plan for this match-up. Fort Smith has a large roster, so Riehl said the team had to remember who was who and the best way to defend them.

Four Hilltoppers had double digit points: Fatheree (20), junior Khiani Clark (19), junior Shakera Barnes (17) and freshman Abby Hopper (10). Also helping with the scoring were the seven rebounds Joly had.

The final score of the semifinals game was 78-63.

Considering it one of their strongest games of the season, Riehl said the team played great. 

“It was just one of those games where it was like everything came together for us,” Riehl said.

Conference Championship:

A low-scoring start for the Hilltoppers would prove costly against the No. 1 Lubbock Christian, seeking to finish their season with a perfect 29-0 record.

On March 6, Lubbock capitalized on turnovers, outshooting St. Edward’s 46-10 with points in the paint. 

Still, St. Edward’s gave a strong effort, as Fatheree scored 12 points with eight rebounds, Clark with eight points, Barnes with 13 points and Hopper with 10 points.

Lubbock would take the title away from the Hilltoppers with a final score of 75-52.

“I couldn’t be more proud of them,” Riehl said. “For us to go through what we’ve gone through this entire year, and dealing with the adversity and being out-manned in almost every game, … it was a great run.”

Two Hilltoppers were named to the all-tournament team: Fatheree and Clark.

St. Edward’s finished their season with an overall 12-17 record and an 8-10 conference record. 

With only one graduating senior, Ateh Ade, the remaining underclassmen team members have now gained a lot of playing experience, holding a promising for the seasons to come.

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Underestimated St. Edward’s women’s basketball team has improbable conference run