MOLINE, Ill. (AP) — Gabi Haack hit six 3-pointers and scored 22 points to lead Bradley to its first NCAA Tournament with a 78-70 win over short-handed Drake in the championship game of the reconfigured Missouri Valley Conference Tournament on Sunday.
Haack had a pair of 3-pointers in a 14-2 run in the fourth quarter that gave the fifth-seeded Braves a 76-66 lead with 2:37 to play. Drake, the second seed, was 2 for 6 with four turnovers in the last seven minutes.
Bradley was scheduled to play league champion and 17th-ranked Missouri State in the semifinals on Saturday but the Bears, probably an NCAA Tournament lock with a 21-2 record, pulled out over a positive COVID-19 test in the Bradley party. The game was deemed no contest and the tournament was reseeded, as determined before the tournament, with the Braves playing — and beating — sixth-seeded Loyola Chicago on Saturday night while second-seeded Drake got a bye into the finals.
The start of the semifinal game and consequently the championship game were pushed back a couple hours.
Drake only had eight players for the championship and assistant coach Markisha Wright handled the team because four players and three coaches, including Jennie Baranczyk missed the game due to CVOID protocols.
Lasha Petree and Emily Marsh both scored 12 points for Bradley (17-11), which was in its first MVC tournament championship. Mahri Petree added 11 and Nyjah White 10 off the bench.
Grace Berg scored 23 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for the Bulldogs (16-11), who have played in 12 NCAA Tournaments, including the last three that were played. Maggie Bair had 14 points and 10 rebounds and Monica Burich and Sarah Beth Gueldner both added 11 points.
Bradley finished 12 of 26 from 3-point range while Drake was just 4 of 19.
Bradley went 8 of 17 from 3-point range to just 2 of 10 for the Bulldogs and the Braves led 40-37 at the half.
Five of the 3s, three by Hack on consecutive possessions late in the first quarter, helped the Braves lead 23-18. The lead reached 13 on a Marsh 3 midway through the second quarter stretch the lead to 13 but Drake closed on a 12-2 run.
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