March 11, 2021 –
The #3 Drexel Dragons advances to the semifinal round of the CAA Women’s Basketball Tournament defeating the #6 Phoenix of Elon 65 – 59 in the quarterfinals. Guard Hannah Nihill led Drexel scoring 24 points connecting on 5 three-point field goals, handed out 5 assists, took down 5 rebounds, and stole the ball 4 times helping the Dragons move on in the tournament.
In a tournament setting, when playing in the final game of day, it is important to get off to a good start. Elon scored the first basket of the game. Then Drexel found the range. Forward Kate Connolly scored the first 8 points for her team. Nihill drained a basket from distance and the Dragons were in front 17 – 7 forcing the Phoenix, who have not have a game since early February, to play uphill.
“It’s really important especially playing the 9:30 game, you’re waiting around all day, so getting a quick start from the jump is important,” said Nihill.
“It was important for Kate (Connolly) to do that to open the door for others,” said Drexel Coach Amy Mallon.
Gradually, the game settled into the expected battle. Drexel kept its lead, but Elon would make run after run at the lead. The Dragons had an answer each time. Drexel Coach Amy Mallon, who won her tournament debut as a head coach, said that answer was Hannah Nihill.
“The big factor for us was our defensive player of the year Hannah Nihill,” Mallon said. “She can have a break when the season is over. She is playing forty minutes a game. I don’t know how she does it. I get tired watching her. But she sets the tone. If there was a stat for turnovers caused I think she would lead the league in that too. The team follows her. When they did make a couple of those runs those runs she stepped up and made a play or a shot as the true leader that she has been all year.”
Elon scored more field goals and had more rebounds, but Drexel had more three-point baskets, foul shots, and swiped the ball away 13 times which led to 19 turnovers. The Dragons were 10 of 19 from distance compared to 7 of 25 for the Phoenix. A key factor was long-distance shooting.
Connolly scored 13 points for Drexel making 3 of 5 from beyond the arc. Keishana Washington also chipped in with 13 points making 4 of 6 from the charity stripe. Forward Mariah Leonard had 4 steals and Kayla Bacon got 3.
Evonna McGill led Elon with a career-high18 points converting 8 of 12 from the field and grabbed a game-best 9 rebounds. Arianna Nance scored 13 points. Brie Perpignan handed out a game-best 6 assists.
Drexel plays James Madison University in the second semifinal. The rivalry continues.
“James Madison seems to be the team we always run into in this tournament,” Mallon said. “We split at home this year, two games that were tough, tough games. Well played games. I know it’s going to be a battle, and will come down to the team that is able to control the little things on the court. They’ll be ready for us and I know we’ll be ready for them.”
Written By: Glenn Papazian