Summit League Cinderella


Jordan McAlpine

Sophie Johnston dribbles in the Summit League Championship against South Dakota. Johnston brought the Mavericks within one point with a 3 in the second quarter, but the Coyotes pulled away for the 66-43 win, ending the Mavericks historic run. Omaha was the first No. 8 seed to ever beat a No. 1 in Summit League tournament history. Photo courtesy of Omaha Athletics.

March and college basketball: It’s a time of year full of upset wins and Cinderella stories. Last weekend, it was the Omaha women’s basketball team that found themselves making history, as the Mavericks put together a historic run in Sioux Falls.

A team that had just two wins in mid-February, the Mavericks caught fire and finished the season hot, riding that momentum all the way to the Summit League Championship. Omaha won five of their final seven games and finished the season at 7-13 overall.

The most improbable game of the run was the first one, as Omaha took down No. 22 South Dakota State 52-40. SDSU finished the regular season a perfect 14-0 in Summit League play and came in at 21-2 overall.

Omaha led by five at the half in that game and never looked back. It was the first-ever upset win by a No. 8 seed over a No. 1 in Summit League tournament history. It also marked the first win over a Top-25 opponent in the Division I era of Omaha’s program history.

One day later, the Mavericks followed it up with another surprising win, 69-55 over Western Illinois. Omaha defeated the Leathernecks 105-102 in overtime for their Summit League win and one of their five regular season victories back on Feb. 6.

However, Sunday’s tournament win sent first-year head coach Carrie Banks and her group to the Summit League championship game.

Both wins the Mavericks put together were complete team efforts, but they did get significant contributions from some faces they’ve relied on all season long. Junior Josie Filer led Omaha with 19 points against SDSU. She was eventually named to the All-Tournament Team. Her teammate, Claire Killian, was also named to the All-Tournament Team. Much in thanks to her 22-point performance against Western Illinois.

As a team, Omaha shot 24-for-44 (54.5%) in that victory over Western Illinois and finished the contest 8-for-14 from beyond the arc. They also controlled the boards, as Omaha outrebounded WIU 31-24.

The Mavericks also controlled the scoreboard, as Omaha led for nearly the entire game. The Mavericks led by as much as 18 in the second half and were ahead for a 37:34 of the 40 minutes.

Sadly, the run fell just short in the championship game. South Dakota jumped out to a fast start and showed why they’re a championship-level team, going on to the 66-43 victory. The Mavericks made it interesting and even only trailed by one at one point in the second quarter, but the Coyotes pulled away in the second half.

It’s still an impressive run for the Mavericks, especially considering the team came in as the eighth seed. The season might be over, but there’s a lot of promise heading into next season for Banks and her program.