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Women’s basketball honors seniors, extends winning streak to 12

Forward Madison Bartley scores 19 points against the Drake Bulldogs. Brock Martynowski/Belmont Vision

Belmont women’s basketball had two great reasons to celebrate in the final home game of the season. While hosting Drake University, the Bruins honored senior Nikki Baird and graduate student Sydni Harvey in a pre-game ceremony. Baird was a member of last year’s NCAA Tournament squad while Harvey arrived and made an instant impact this year in the navy and red. Both suited up inside the Curb Event Center for the final time against the Bulldogs. After a battle between the two Missouri Valley Conference foes, the Bruins were able to clutch out an 83-77 win for their 12th consecutive victory. “I thought our team had really good energy and focus to start the game,” head coach Bart Brooks said. “We made enough plays down the stretch in a close one where they kept making runs and I’m really proud of our response as a team when it got tough.” Securing a perfect 8-0 record for the month of February, Belmont is now tied with Illinois State University for the top spot in the MVC. The Bruins latest combination for success ran through juniors Destinee Wells and Madison Bartley and sophomore Kendal Cheesman. The trio combined for 59 of Belmont’s 83 points, contributing to the Bruins’ hot start. At the end of the first quarter, Belmont held a 25-14 lead. Into the second, the Bruins lost some of their grip, but Wells made sure the teams hustle wasn’t impacted.

The on-court leader of Belmont women’s basketball. Brock Martynowski/Belmont Vision

“We're just a tough team,” Wells said, finishing with 27 points and seven assists. “We don't let a little adversity stop us, and we have some really great players that can make plays down the stretch, and we did that.” The crowd grew louder during the final home game of the season as the Bruins picked the pace back up and extended their lead. Cheesman energized the Bruin faithful with 13 points off the bench, but it was the point guard-forward tandem of Wells and Bartley that kept Curb rocking. Wells gave fans a treat as she eluded Drake defenders on the way to the rim before throwing it behind her head to Bartley who finished the highlight play. A foul on Bartley with less than two minutes remaining gave the Bulldogs a chance to get closer as the Bruins held a four-point lead. Guard Kate Dinnebier attempted to keep Drake in the game, collecting 24 points, five rebounds and four assists, but it was two Bruins that were off the court that contained her down the stretch. As crunch time progressed with uncalled fouls and high tension on the court, President Greg Jones and Betty Wiseman hyped up the crowd with the game on the line. “We've got a great support staff, we've got great administrative support and most importantly, we've got really good players,” Brook said. “When you have that combination, you're usually in in a good place to step in and have success.” With one-minute remaining, the Bruins were only up by one point. But it was Wells who saved the day with timely free throws and secured the final home victory for a Belmont basketball team this season. The Bruins’ two remaining games will be on the road against UIC and Valparaiso University, then it will be time for “Hoops in the Heartland” held in the Quad Cities of Illinois and Iowa. “We know they're two really good teams, but we also know that when we're at our best and playing tough where we did tonight,” Wells said. “We can compete with anybody in the conference. And we're going to show it.” PHOTO: Bartley continued her sensational second half of the season with 19 points versus Drake. Brock Martynowski/Belmont Vision

This article was written by Cat Da Rocha

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