Blue Demons handle Drexel, advance to semi-final of Preseason WNIT


Jonathan Aguilar

Guard Dee Bekelja dribbles into the lane against Drexel. Bekelja came off the bench to score 7 points for the Blue Demons.

Sometimes a player can show in a quarter what they’ve worked for for years. 

That was the story of the first quarter of Monday night’s Preseason WNIT second-round between DePaul and Drexel where Sonya Morris matched her career-high for points in a game in only ten minutes of action when she had 13 points on 5-of-6 shooting. 

The Blue Demons hosted the Drexel Dragons at McGrath-Phillips Arena in Lincoln Park after a first-round win against Miami (OH) on Friday night at Wintrust Arena. It was the first Lincoln Park home game for DePaul, who held it down to the tune of an 81-57 victory. 

In the first quarter, it was all Morris and it was all DePaul. The sophomore guard scored 13 points with 7 being added from fellow sophomore guard Lexi Held. Off the back of their two sophomore shooters, the Blue Demons cruised to a 30-12 lead after the first half. Both Morris and Held played a big role on the defensive side of the ball. 

“I think my biggest advantage is my aggressiveness and my motor so I just try to keep it all the time,” Morris said. “Sometimes shots are going to fall sometimes you’re not going to have a great offensive game but you can always control your aggression and your defense.”

Yet the Dragons wouldn’t be slain so early. They came out in a zone in the second quarter, stopping the abuse they got in their 1-on-1 matchups. This lead to a few more mistakes from the Blue Demons, and they would go on a 1-for-9 shooting drought. The Dragons came back into the game, trailing only 43-33 at the break. 

“The zone did bother us in the second quarter for sure,” head coach Doug Bruno said. “And I think it’s a matter of repetitions we really have a lot of belief in our zone offense, we know how to execute against a zone.”

In the third quarter, the Blue Demons looked like they had a little more gas out of the break. A three from senior Kelly Campbell, a Chante Stonewall jumper and a Held three got them off to a fast start. 

Turnovers were a problem for the Dragons, who gave the ball up 23 times leading to 32 points off turnovers for the Blue Demons. 

“We know that they are a pressing team,” Drexel head coach Denise Dillon said. “We worked on a couple of different things, it was a quick turnaround from our last game but it wasn’t even the initial in the backcourt turnovers it was once we got over we were uncertain on what we should be doing and what we were doing, and a lot of careless turnovers early.”

When it came to forcing turnovers, Stonewall was excellent, getting 4 steals and forcing others. Kelly Campbell and Sonya Morris added 3 steals each. The full-court press was able to put a lid on the Dragons’ offensive attack. 

“We practice it every day in practice we work on our full-court pressure and so once you know Chante’s out there working hard on the ball and once we get into a rhythm and you know she gets a couple of steals it really just fires everyone up to continue that momentum,” Held said.

In the fourth quarter, it was all DePaul as the senior duo took over, with each of Stonewall and Campbell scoring 6 points to start it off. 

But the crucial element to the successful fourth quarter was the defense of the Blue Demons. They held the Dragons to 4 points in the first 7 minutes of the quarter, effectively putting the game out of reach by the end of the game.

Stonewall finished with 19 points and 5 rebounds to go with 4 steals, Campbell had 9 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists, and Held had 15 points on 5-for-9 shooting. 

The No. 18 Blue Demons will go on to the semi-finals of the preseason WNIT to face no. 6 Oregon State in Corvallis, Oregon on Thursday at 9 p.m.