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The Antelope

UNK women fall in first round of NCAA Division II tournament



Pittsburg State’s Grace Pyle came out on a mission. The 5-foot-11 sophomore scored the Gorillas’ first 16 points of the game and ended with 30. 

Pyle put the Lopers behind early and they were never able to recover, as second-seeded UNK was blown out by the No. 7 Gorillas 74-54 in the first round of the 2023 Division II women’s basketball tournament. 

“Grace Pyle really opened the floor up for them,” said UNK coach Carrie Eighmey at the postgame press conference. “She was shooting from way deep. Anytime you’ve got a player that can do that, the floor just gets really big. Grace came out guns ablaze and hit some deep shots.”

Pyle shot 12-19 from the field, also making six 3-pointers. Karenna Gerber was Pitt State’s other double-digit scorer, with 15 points along with nine rebounds and three blocks. 

UNK won both regular season matchups against the Gorillas, 70-55 on Jan. 5 and 70-67 on Feb. 18. The 74 points given up in the tournament loss was the most points given up by the Loper defense all season. 

After falling behind 20-10, the Lopers cut the deficit to five. The Gorillas responded with 18-straight points to take a 38-15 lead before Brooke Carlson stopped the bleeding with a putback layup. 

UNK trailed by as many as 24 points in the second half, but was only down 14 in the early stages of the final quarter. The team couldn’t put enough consecutive possessions together to get within striking distance. 

Two Lopers scored in double-figures, with both Brooke Carlson and Elisa Backes scoring 10 points each. Shooting 33.9% from the field and only 4-25 from the 3-point line, UNK couldn’t keep up.

“Unfortunately for us, we did not play our best basketball today,” Eighmey said. “We struggled to get some stops early and offensively we just could not get into a rhythm. We just couldn’t get shots to go really. I thought we had some good ones around the rim and some good open looks from the perimeter and just weren’t able to knock enough down.”

The Lopers end the season with a record of 28-5. The 28 wins ties the school record for wins in a season set by the 1996-97 team.

With the loss, Backes, Carlson, Maegan Holt and Klaire Kirsch all played their last game for the Lopers. Through all the highs and lows, the team considers itself a family. 

“I think you’ll probably hear a lot of people, especially when it’s going well, say that ‘we’re family, we all love each other and it’s great,’ but through every single up-and-down I know that truly we are family here,” Kirsch said. “From our head coach down to our trainer, I know they would take a bullet for me. I know coach Carrie would jump in front of a bullet for me. Nothing matches that. I’m very thankful.”

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