Daily Egyptian

Salukis’ postseason opener ends in heartbreaking thriller

By Thomas Donley, @TDonleyDE

While the nation focused its attention on the first round of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, the fans at Western Hall were treated to an exciting contest in the opening round of the Women’s Basketball Invitational between Southern Illinois and Western Illinois.

The Leathernecks (16-15, 8-8 Summit League) prevailed 99-97 in overtime in a game that saw 19 ties and 18 lead changes.

Western junior guard Mallory Boyle’s layup with 0.3 seconds remaining in the first overtime proved to be the game-winner just 2.3 seconds after Saluki junior guard Rishonda Napier tied it with a jumper in transition.

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Senior guard Cartaesha Macklin was whistled for her fifth foul on Maher’s layup.

“I just saw my career flash before me,” Macklin said. “That whole five years of experiences. It just was emotional. I just wanted to keep myself composed … I just felt it in my stomach and my heart. My heart dropped.”

Napier led SIU (20-13, 12-6 Missouri Valley Conference) with a game-high 33 points. Macklin added 28 in her last game as a Saluki. Sophomore guard Kylie Giebelhausen recorded her first career double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds.

Maher’s 26 points paced the Leathernecks. Freshman guard Taylor Higginbotham added 25 and 10 rebounds.

“I think the offense was really good on both ends,” Stein said. “You had really good scorers on both ends, and it was going to come down to defense, and they got a couple more stops than we did.”

The game was Southern Illinois’ first postseason appearance since 2007 and the final one for Macklin and fellow seniors Dyana Pierre, Azia Washington and Blair Stephenson. 

“They deserve [to play in the postseason],” Stein said. “They’ve put in so many long hours and dedication and time commitment. I hate for it to end like this, but Western Illinois outplayed us today.”

Pierre finished just shy of a double-double with 13 points and nine boards.

Macklin ends her career as the Salukis’ all-time leading scorer with 1,779 points and Pierre finishes as the all-time leading rebounder with 1,218 boards.

The Leathernecks will face South Carolina Upstate in the second round.

Thomas Donley can be reached at [email protected] or at 618-536-3307

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