By Miyah Keller
Winning is never a guaranteed formula for competitive athletes but, supporters of DePaul University Women’s Basketball are becoming accustomed to seeing their team in the March finals.
The No. 1 seed Blue Demons conquered their third consecutive women’s basketball tournament championship March 9 with an 88-74 triumph over second seed Marquette University on Monday night at Wintrust Arena in the Big East Tournament.
For the fifth time since they joined the Big East in 2014 and the fourth consecutive year, DePaul and Marquette battled in the finals yet again. After winning another trophy, the Blue Demons celebrated at mid-court as confetti rained over them.
The Blue Demons officially secured a spot in the NCAA Tournament for the third straight time. The Blue Demons officially secured a spot in the NCAA Tournament for the 18th back to back season.
DePaul ensured no uncertainty from the second quarter on. DePaul outscored Marquette by 13 points in the second quarter and 10 in the third to blow the game open.
“We wouldn’t be sitting up here as champions if [Marquette] didn’t take us to school the way they took us to school eight, nine days ago,” DePaul coach Doug Bruno said.
Sophomore Lexi Held, honored as the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, racked up 31 points to lead the Blue Demons. The team left with an agreeable triumph after scarcely winning the competition a year ago when the Demons beat a vigorously favored Marquette team in the final.
Doug Bruno’s team proved tenacious on defense and deadly from three-point range.
Held aced every one of the six of her three-point attempts as she shot 10-of-14 from the field. Chante Stonewall had 22 points and a trio of triples while Kelly Campbell hit four from the outside as the Blue Demons hit 14-three pointers on the game.
Before the last quarter was finished, the Demons had established a tournament record, making 43 three-point shots throughout the tournament weekend.
Held didn’t realize she had scored more than 30 points until Campbell told her after the game.
“That’s just how we play,” Held said. “Every shot that we shoot, we practice. I think the freedom, having the greenest green light in America, is what allows us to shoot as well as we do.”
The Blue Demons sweetened their victory with a first — the first time in Big East history that the same team has played in the championship game four years straight. Despite DePaul’s strength, competition rippled through the rivalry from the first whistle. Marquette couldn’t compensate for DePaul’s 30 points off turnovers, though.
“We started losing some confidence out there,” Marquette coach Megan Duffy said. “I thought DePaul’s pressure, and they kept turning it up, especially in that second quarter.”
Duffy, the former prodigy Notre Dame point guard, wins Big East Coach of the Year award as the first-year coaching Marquette. Notre Dame, Connecticut, and Tennessee deserve recognition for their contributions to the Big East.
When compared to other conferences, some say the Big East doesn’t hold up because they haven’t made it to the Final Four or won an NCAA championship. In any case, DePaul’s NCAA competition consistency is matched by just four programs: Connecticut, Notre Dame, Stanford, and Tennessee.
Their competitive efforts currently increase the odds for DePaul hosting the first two round NCAA tournaments at Wintrust Arena in a little under two weeks. It’s a familiar spot for DePaul and one that no fan of the team will complain about.
“I’m not just doing this to count W’s,” Bruno said. “We’ve watched this program go from infancy to where we are, but we still aspire to move into that level of play. That’s why I still coach.”
Photo at top: On Monday night at Wintrust Arena DePaul Blue Demons celebrates third consecutive win since 2017. (Credit: Miyah Keller/MEDILL)