SIOUX CITY, Iowa – No matter the uniform number or the college, Kayla Drake still has plenty of offensive ability.
Drake, wearing her uncustomary No. 20 black road jersey Wednesday, scored a game-high 21 points as second-ranked Saint Francis defeated Reinhardt (Ga.) 62-42 in an opening-round game of the NAIA Division II women’s national basketball tournament at Tyson Events Center.
The uniform number change, only for the Cougars’ road uniforms, hasn’t fazed Drake, who entered the national tournament with a 15.7 scoring average.
I’m actually No. 21, said Drake, who was 4 of 12 from three-point range. It was our first tournament we went to in the beginning of the year. Our jerseys got washed and my number got melted in the dryer, so then I had to switch to 20 for the away jersey, but I’m actually No. 21.
Saint Francis (31-3) advances to the second round for the first time since 2007 and will play at 1 p.m. Friday against Saint Xavier (Ill.), which defeated the Cougars 78-61 on Dec. 29.
The last two times I think our team came here I believe we lost the first game, said Drake, who started her college career at Eastern Kentucky in 2008-09, when she was Ohio Valley Conference Newcomer of the Year. She then transferred to IPFW, where she played the 2010-11 season before transferring to Saint Francis.
It’s nice to get that win over with. Now we can just take our time and focus on our next game, get a day of rest and come ready to play on Friday.
Brooke Ridley, the Crossroads League Freshman of the Year, chipped in 11 points for a Saint Francis team that won its seventh consecutive game and 16th in its last 17 games.
The Cougars stiffened their defense in the second half, especially on Reinhardt’s 6-foot-2 junior Taylor Johnson, who led the Eagles (19-15) with 12 points. But those all came in the first half, when the school from Waleska, Ga., trailed by just 10 at halftime, 32-22.
Our defense was better inside in the second half, Saint Francis coach Gary Andrews said. Brooke is one of the best defensive players in the country, she was a little nervous.
The other kids did a good job of helping, and Kalah Bear came in and gave us some good minutes defensively.