Thursday, December 28, 2017

Haack scores career-high 26 in Bradley Women's Basketball win over Western Illinois

In the 87-80 win over Western Illinois, Bradley Freshman Gabi Haack (Elk River, MN) had a career-high 26 points.
PHOTO / ALEX STAAB
Peoria, IL - Just one game remained in the non-conference schedule for the Bradley Braves (6-5) on Thursday night, and it would be one of their toughest non-conference opponents in the Western Illinois Leathernecks (10-4).

The game got off to a rough start for the Braves, as Western Illinois took just 3:31 to go on a 12-4 run, forcing a Bradley timeout. The Leathernecks offense was still clicking through the end of the quarter, not missing many opportunities, and at times overwhelming the Braves offensively. By quarter's end, the visitors would have a 15-point lead, 31-16. Bradley's Gabi Haack, who had a career-level type of game, thought it was a number of things that saw the game not start the way the perhaps should have.

"We were getting beat in transition and that's why we were down. We weren't getting easy baskets. we weren't getting back fast enough."

The Braves played arguably their best defensive quarter in the second frame, holding Western Illinois to just 11 second quarter points. However, Western Illinois was able to maintain a lead around the 10-point mark for a majority of the second quarter. It wasn't until there were 32 seconds left in the half that Bradley was able to cut the Western Illinois lead to less than 10. Headed to the halftime locker room, the Braves would be within eight of the Leathernecks, 42-34. Western Illinois Head Coach JD Gravina thinks that the fast starts becoming a slower offense has been too consistent for his squad.

"The bad thing is that's been the same script for us quite a bit this year. We've gotten off to great starts. We relaxed just a tiny bit."

The second half was practically all Braves, but especially in the third quarter. The Braves didn't take long getting into a big run, a 12-5 run to be exact, capped by a three from Haack, who had 15 of her career-high 26 points in the third, those 15 points coming on five threes. Haack wasn't done yet. Her fifth and final three of the quarter forced Western Illinois to call another timeout with 1:21 remaining in the period. The three forced a Western Illinois timeout just 2:37 into the third quarter. Nyjah White also had a quality quarter, scoring six of her 11 in the third. Chelsea Brackmann added 5 points to put the Braves ahead of the Leathernecks with just 10 minutes until the end of this one, 63-55.

The Bradley crowd was loving the Braves effort in this one, and were on their feet for the fourth quarter, which actually saw Western Illinois outscoring Bradley, 25-24. The only problem being, accoring to JD Gravina, was the momentum.

"That's a good mid-major basketball team. Bradley got the momentum and we lost it, and we could never get back from it and they did a great job continuing to have it and using it."

The Braves got the offense going to start the quarter, increasing their lead to as much as 12 around the mid-way point of the fourth. Chelsea Brackmann had her best quarter offensively, scoring 10 of her 20. As Gravina had mentioned, Bradley was in a rhythm, and there was no getting them out of it. When the final buzzer sounded, the Braves would have the win, 87-80, over Western Illinois, a team which ESPNW ranked 10th among mid-major women's basketball programs.

Haack would finish with likely the best game of her career to this point. Her 26 points, as mentioned, are a career-high. Her eight threes in a game tie the program's all-time record. She also had a double-double, adding 10 rebounds to the 26-point effort. Despite all of that, Haack gave a lot of credit to the team.

"We had a really good team effort. We played well on offense and defense. We really focused on our transition defense. We went after the loose balls, and we had a lot of energy."

Bradley's Head Coach, Andrea Gorski, had a lot of praise for the freshman, who also got her first career start in Thursday night's game.

"She's (Gabi) such a nice kid. She kind of defers a little bit too much. In the last three or four practices, she started dominating. Her defense has gotten a lot better. She's asserting herself, and wants to be a go-to player. That really showed today."

Chelsea Brackmann and Anneke Schlueter both had notable games as well, totaling 20 and 15 points respectively. Gorski had some praise for Brackmann, as well as Nyjah White.

"I thought that Nyjah and Chelsea were able to play with that tempo a little bit and that helped us in transition. Chelsea was key today. She finished well, hit some free throws. I thought she played within herself."

The number may not show it definitively, but the official attendance of 854 sounded more like 1,000+ at times. Haack thought it made for a good atmosphere.

"It was a great crowd. I know there were a lot of Western Illinois fans in the stands, but yeah, it's good to have the Coliseum packed."

The Braves had a quality non-conference slate, featuring teams like #21 Green Bay, Northern Illinois, Illinois, and of course, Western Illinois. Coach Gorski thinks it's improved her team.

"We've had a tough non-conference. We've gotten better, we've had different people step up. I think it's prepared us really well for Valley play."

With the win, the Braves are (6-5) through the non-conference slate of games. Haack talked about how the team's effort in practice has payed off.

"We've been working really hard in practice and it showed today, for sure. It's a great way to end our non-conference season."

The Braves will open Missouri Valley play with Illinois State on New Year's Eve, Sunday, January 31st. The I-74 rivalry was split in 2016-17, with the Redbirds winning 71-63 in Normal and the Braves winning 70-59 on Senior Day in Peoria.

Bradley Braves Scorers:
Gabi Haack (26), Chelsea Brackmann (20), Anneke Schlueter (15), Nyjah White (11), Danielle Brewer (6), Shunseere Kent (3), Vanessa Markert (2), Jailynn Lawson (2), Madison Dellamuth (2)

Bradley Braves Statistical Leaders:
Field Goals | Gabi Haack (9 for 13)
3's | Gabi Haack (8 for 12)
Free Throws | Chelsea Brackmann (6 for 10)
Rebounds | Chelsea Brackmann (12)
Assists | Anneke Schlueter (7)
Blocks | Anneke Schlueter (3)
Steals | Anneke Schlueter (5)

Bradley Braves Team Stats:
Field Goals | 32 for 71 (45.1%)
3's | 10 for 24 (41.7%)
Free Throws | 13 for 19 (68.4%)
Rebounds | 44
Assists | 26
Turnovers | 12
Blocks | 4
Steals | 8

Next Bradley Braves Women's Basketball Game:
Sunday, January 31st, 2017 - 11:00 am
Redbird Arena - Normal, Illinois
@ Illinois State Redbirds (6-5)
Radio | WIRL 1290 AM
Web | ESPN3

Twitter | Bradley Women's Basketball (@BradleyWBB), Bradley Athletics (@BradleyBraves), Alex Staab (@StaabAlex)

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