By Dalton McGlone, Staff Writer
The Bellarmine women’s basketball team lost in heartbreaking fashion Saturday as No. 15 Lewis defeated the Knights 78-77. The Knights had the support of the home crowd all game as they fell one shot short of winning their senior day matchup.
A steal by Bellarmine forward Lauren Deel and a layup by guard Mallory Schwartz on the other end was a promising start for the Knights. But Lewis responded with 14 unanswered points, eight of which came in the paint.
The Knights’ offense was smothered during the first half as Lewis repeatedly contested shots at the rim. On offense, Lewis relied on forward Jessica Kelliher. The Flyers consistently fed Kelliher in the post as she scored 24 of her 31 points in the first half.
Along with Bellarmine’s 29 forced turnovers, junior Mikayla Berry’s shooting kept the Knights in the game. She finished with 22 points on 8-for-15 shooting.
“We knew (Kelliher) was going to get hers,” Berry said. “Our focus was to stay on the help-side and force her to make the tough shots.”
After a dominant performance on both sides of the ball by Lewis, the Knights found themselves down 48-30 at halftime. Bellarmine wasted no time and chipped away at Lewis’ lead in the third quarter. The Knights capitalized on turnovers and second-chance points and found easy looks at the rim. A couple of timely 3-pointers by Berry and forward Lauren Deel kept the momentum from swinging back in the Flyers’ favor. By the start of the fourth, the Knights had cut the lead to eight.
“Coach’s favorite thing to tell us is the ball finds energy,” Berry said. “We just try to keep moving on offense, so we can move the ball quicker. That’s how we were able open shots and finally hit them in the second half.”
The teams went blow-for-blow for most of the fourth quarter until Lewis went on a run to go up 77-71 with 45 seconds left. A steal by guard Katie Downey led to a Schwartz layup and a free throw to cut the lead to three with 25 seconds left. The Knights fouled to stop the clock, and the Flyers hit one free throw. On the second free throw, Kelliher was called for a lane violation, which gave the ball to Bellarmine.
The Knights inbounded the ball after a timeout and guard Breia Torrens nailed a step-back 3-pointer with 15 seconds left to bring the Knights within one. After Lewis inbounded the ball, Downey intercepted another pass to give Bellarmine a chance to win. The ball was passed around frantically and made its way to freshman Presley Brown in the corner. Brown heaved it, but the shot was barely off and hit the back of the rim before the final buzzer sounded.
Bellarmine head coach Chancellor Dugan said: “You have to give credit to Lewis. They are a very good team. If (Kelliher) isn’t player of the year, then I haven’t seen one. She’s just incredible. But our kids just battled. They made some tough shots, grabbed some tough rebounds, made them turn it over… But we’re going to take this loss and learn from it.”
The Knights enter the last week of the regular season 14-10 (8-8 Great Lakes Valley Conference). They go on the road to play McKendree University Thursday. McKendree is 13-12 and 6-9 in the GLVC.