Women’s Basketball Makes First-Ever NCAA Tournament Appearance
In a basketball season like no other, the women’s basketball team had accomplishments like no other in the program’s history.
Senior guard Gabi Haack’s 22 points spearheaded a 78–70 victory over short-handed Drake in the MVC Women’s Basketball Championship for Bradley’s first conference title and the automatic appearance in the NCAA Tournament, another first for the program.
“The feeling is kind of indescribable,” said Haack, the Patty Viverito Most Outstanding Player in the MVC tournament. “All the hard work we put in paid off. Our goal is to hang a (championship) banner, we don’t have any banners in our gym.”
Junior guard Lasha Petree joined Haack on the all-tournament team. She and senior forward Emily Marsh each had 12 points in the championship. Bradley reached the title game after tournament victories over the University of Northern Iowa and Loyola.
The lack of banners or championship trophies also motivated Head Coach Andrea McAllister Gorski ’92, who had trouble voicing her feelings after the title game.
“You just can’t put it into words what it means to win our first conference championship and the first time going to the NCAA Tournament,” she said. “(the championship) is for all our alumni. It’s for anyone who ever played at Bradley.”
Gorski carried a picture of the empty trophy case since returning to her alma mater five years ago.
“I don’t have to look at it any more. That’s what’s hanging in our locker room, a picture of an empty trophy case. Now, we get to put a trophy in it.
Gorski noted that last year’s team, which had the winningest season in program history, saw its postseason chances eliminated by the pandemic. She also said the team was able to play every game this season despite the pandemic.
Unlike in past years when regionals were spread across different parts of the country, NCAA Tournament games are all being played in and around San Antonio. The four regionals are named after landmarks in the Texas city, with Bradley in the Hemisfair Regional. Other regionals are Alamo, River Walk and Mercado.
“We’re Squad 46, that’s 46 years of women’s basketball. We’re finally bringing the (conference) trophy home to Renaissance Coliseum,” Gorski said. “I got chills just saying it.”
Unfortunately, in the opening round of March Madness, despite Petree’s game-high 33 points with five blocks, the 11th seed Braves’ historic season came to an end with an 81-62 loss to sixth seed Texas, an at-large selection from the Big 12 Conference. The Braves were 17-11, 10-8 in the regular season.
The game, shown on ESPN2, was at Texas State University in San Marcos. It was also the first time a Bradley women’s game was nationally televised.
“I knew for a fact there's no quit in this team,” Gorski told the Peoria Journal Star afterward. “We've been through a lot this season ... but they've never stopped believing in themselves, and the coaches have never stopped believing in them.”
— Bob Grimson ’81