ST. CHARLES, Mo. - The top three seeds at the Missouri Valley Conference women's basketball tournament all have been eliminated going into today's championship game.
Seventh-seeded Drake provided two of the upsets at The Family Arena with its latest being a 56-52 win over No. 3 Wichita State on Saturday in the semifinals.
The Bulldogs (18-14) advance to face No. 4 Creighton (19-12) in today's championship with the winner getting an automatic bid to the NCAA tourney. The Bluejays defeated No. 1 Missouri State 56-47 earlier on Saturday.
Drake led Wichita State by as many as 18 in the first half and by 12 at the break. The Bulldogs regained an 18-point cushion with 10 minutes to go, yet had to hold on at the end.
The Shockers (19-12) used a 14-2 run sparked by their pressure defense to move within one point with 1:10 left. Wichita State missed its final two shots and turned the ball over twice in the late going.
"Just a gritty, gritty performance by our team today," said Drake head coach Amy Stephens. "Anytime we have held people in the 50s, we've given ourselves a chance to win games."
Creighton vs. Drake
MVC tournament finals
Sunday, 2:05 p.m.
TV: Fox Sports Midwest
"Our defense and our rebounding is what won it," she added. "Our offense was really ugly, especially in the second half. Our players showed a lot of composure in situations when we were turning the ball over and giving up easy baskets."
MVC Player of the Year Rachael Hackbarth finished with 15 points and 12 rebounds for the Bulldogs.
Kyndal Clark added 14 points and was 6-for-6 from the foul line. Clark's pair of free throws with 5 seconds left provided the final margin.
"We have to shoot 500 free throws a week," Clark said. "At that point, I knew they had to go in, it wasn't an option. I wasn't going to over-think it. I was just going to go up there and do my routine."
Carly Grenfell added 11 points and was 3-for-3 from 3-point range. Drake went 6-for-8 from distance for the game, which included 6-for-7 in the first half.
"That was the most determined that I have ever seen Drake," said Wichita State's Haleigh Lankster, who had a team-high 15 points.
"They had a gameplan and they executed."
The Bulldogs defeated No. 2 Illinois State in Friday's quarterfinal round.
Drake was last in the NCAA tournament when it was an 8-seed and defeated No. 6 Creighton in the MVC final in 2008.
"This is an unreal experience especially for the seniors on the team," Hackbarth said. "Just the feel that we have on this team, the chemistry and the way we grind out and play for each other. We never quit. Anything is possible right now for us."
Sioux City native Carli Tritz scored 27 of her career-high 29 points in the second half as the Bluejays upset Missouri State.
The Bulldogs swept the regular season series against Creighton.