Mavericks fall short of NCAA Tournament bid


Mitchell Cutcher

Sports Editor

Omaha’s Elena Pilakouta attempts to score against South Dakota State. Photo courtesy Dave Eggen/Inertia.

The Omaha women’s basketball team won their first two games in the Summit League Tournament but they lost to South Dakota State in the championship game. This was the Mavericks’ second appearance in the conference tournament championship game in three years.

The Mavericks’ season came to a close against the Jackrabbits in the conference tournament final where Omaha lost 93-51. The Mavericks struggled for offense early and scored only 16 points in the first half. At halftime South Dakota State led 44-16. 

Omaha put up a fight in the second half, but the damage from the first half was too much to overcome. Omaha came out of the gate strong in the third quarter and doubled their points total, scoring 16 in the quarter. In the end South Dakota State looked like the team that went undefeated in the regular season and closed out the win to clinch their berth into the NCAA Tournament.

Omaha did not leave Sioux Falls without honors, as Elena Pilakouta was named to the All-Tournament team. In her three final games wearing the Mavericks’ jersey, Pilakouta averaged 12 points and 9.3 rebounds per game. The Cyprus national ended her career with 1,201 points, 652 rebounds, and 67 blocks. 

The Mavericks’ tournament run started with an upset in the second round when they beat North Dakota 84-81. The game came down to the wire and Katie Keitges played the role of hero against the Fighting Hawks when she stole the ball and was then fouled with six seconds remaining. The junior guard followed up the play by hitting two clutch free throws to put the game out of reach. 

In the semi-final round Omaha squared off with a team that was on a Cinderella run through the conference tournament. The Mavericks played Kansas City who was fresh off back-to-back upsets over Denver and North Dakota State. Omaha pulled out another win against the Roos with a 69-60 victory and were led in scoring by Grace Cave who finished with 19 and tied her season high for points.