Senior Hollie Mershon celebrates with teammates Rachel Pearson and Megan Creighton after the Dragons defeated Florida to advance to the WNIT Championship.
With a 67-57 victory over the Florida Gators on Wednesday, Drexel’s women’s basketball team advanced to the championship game of the Women’s National Invitation Tournament. The Dragons will face Utah on Saturday at 3 p.m. at the Daskalakis Athletic Center to vie for the first postseason tournament title in the school’s history.
Senior Hollie Mershon turned in a stellar performance to lift her team over their semifinal opponent, leading Drexel with 28 points and a career-best 10 assists. Taylor Wootton added 16 points, including six straight during a crucial stretch of the second half. Junior Fiona Flanagan knocked down three of the Dragons’ eight three-pointers and finished with 11 points while helping Drexel shoot better than 44 percent from deep.
Drexel again employed a strong defensive effort and timely shooting to open up an early lead on its opponent. After falling behind 6-4 in the opening minutes of the game, the Dragons reeled off an 11-0 run capped by a three-pointer from Flanagan that gave Drexel an 18-8 lead by the mid-point of the half.
Playing in front of a raucous crowd of 1,412, the Dragons led by as many as 11 in the first half. They reached that mark on three different occasions before intermission, including with 1:36 to play when Mershon spun to the basket and scooped up an off-balanced shot that rolled around the rim and in, putting Drexel up 34-23. Florida had an answer though, as Jaterra Bonds got a layup and Moss sank a three-pointer from the left wing, the first trey of the night for the Gators. Drexel took a 34-28 lead into the break.
Coming out of halftime, neither team could get much going offensively for the first three minutes. It was Mershon who opened the scoring, freeing herself for a three-pointer with 17:04 remaining. Florida briefly pulled to within five points at 37-32 with 15:08 to play, but Wootton responded with a 10-foot jumper from the elbow.
Rachel Pearson took quashed Florida’s final push when she drained a three-pointer to put Drexel up by 11 points, 48-37 midway through the second half. Drexel would maintain a double-digit lead nearly the rest of the way, with Florida cutting the lead to eight only with 1:00 remaining and the game nearly in hand for the Dragons.
The win puts Drexel into the WNIT championship game, where it will host the Utes of Utah. Utah will be the fifth-straight opponent that Drexel is facing for the first time in program history. The Utes went to Kansas State and knocked off the Wildcats in overtime in their semifinal, 54-46.
Tickets for Saturday's championship game are available by visiting www.DrexelTickets.com. They can be purchased on Thursday by calling 1-866-4-DREXEL or by visiting the Drexel ticket office at the Daskalakis Athletic Center. The first 300 students will be admitted free with ID.