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Women’s basketball claims conference crown, advancing to playoffs

The+women%27s+basketball+team+won+the+Heartland+Conference+Championship.+They+defeated+Lubbock+Christian+University+52-44+and+will+advance+to+the+Div.+II+NCAA+National+Tournament.%C2%A0
The women's basketball team won the Heartland Conference Championship. They defeated Lubbock Christian University 52-44 and will advance to the Div. II NCAA National Tournament. 

The women's basketball team won the Heartland Conference Championship. They defeated Lubbock Christian University 52-44 and will advance to the Div. II NCAA National Tournament. 

The women's basketball team won the Heartland Conference Championship. They defeated Lubbock Christian University 52-44 and will advance to the Div. II NCAA National Tournament. 

Amanda Gonzalez

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St. Edward’s claimed the Heartland Conference crown with a 52-44 win over Lubbock Christian University. Now, the Hilltoppers are headed to the NCAA Tournament.

Representing the South Central region in the playoffs, St. Edward’s is the No. 7 seed and will play against No. 2 Angelo State University in Pueblo, Colorado in the quarterfinals on Friday at 3:30 p.m.

“It’s so surreal,” Head Coach J.J. Riehl said to the Heartland Conference media after her win. “You plan and you work for this moment for an entire year, and then it gets here … Lubbock is a great team. We have nothing but respect for them.”

This conference championship game was a rematch of last season’s championship game,

where Lubbock Christian won 75-52. This season, St. Edward’s secured the title on March 5.
At the championship game, there were a combination of emotions after the win.

“There’s so much emotion,” senior forward Lexi Fatheree said to the media. “We came in, and we were ready. Never once did I doubt my team – never once.”

Both teams were slow to get on the board initially. At the end of the first quarter, the score was 12-8 with St. Edward’s ahead.

No. 3 Lubbock Christian went 0-11 from the arc in the first half, while No. 1 St. Edward’s capitalized. With the game tied at 20, sophomore shooting guard Bailey Hill made a 3-point shot at the buzzer to end the second quarter. The halftime score was 23-20.

Throughout the game, senior forward Khiani Clark covered the inside, Hill and junior forward Haley Joly on the outside, while senior Shakera Barnes delegated in her point guard role with seven assists.

A rare moment came in the fourth quarter when there were double fouls with 8:51 minutes left. Hopper and Lubbock Christian’s Hannah Harbin drew separate personal fouls.

Lubbock Christian came within four points with 2:15 minutes left and a 45-41 score. But St. Edward’s would remain calm and add seven critical points on free throws.

“I think in the end, we have three seniors who are just tremendous leaders, and they just pulled us through,” Riehl said.

Clark scored 20 points, and was named the Tournament Most Valuable Player. Fatheree joined her teammate on the All-Conference team.

For Lubbock Christian, Bobbi Chitsey and the Heartland Conference Player of the Year Tess Bruffey scored 14 and 11 points respectively.

As for St. Edward’s, this was a team that was predicted to finish in fifth place. Instead the women’s basketball team finished first, earning the first regular season title in school history.

Riehl was named the Heartland Conference Coach of the Year. This is her second conference tournament title and NCAA Tournament appearance in five years. Her first were in 2014.

“We’re just going to ride this wave of emotion and happiness and joy,” Riehl said. “We’re a veteran squad and we’ll figure out what we’re going to do next…”

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Women’s basketball claims conference crown, advancing to playoffs