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Southeast Missouri State women's basketball teams avenges loss in season opener
The Southeast Missouri State women's basketball team had to wait until nearly December to pick up its first win last season.
The Redhawks didn't have to wait nearly as long this year.
Southeast got the second season of coach Ty Margenthaler's rebuilding project off to a rousing start by drilling visiting Wright State 78-66 on Friday night.
An appreciative, announced crowd of 852 at the Show Me Center saw the Redhawks avenge last year's 74-53 loss at Wright State while winning their season opener for the first time since the 2009-10 campaign.
"We're so excited," senior forward Bailie Roberts said. "It's super exciting for us to start off with a win."
Margenthaler didn't want to go overboard with his enthusiasm after just one game.
But he found it hard not to be excited, especially after his first Southeast squad last year started 0-6 on its way to a 7-22 record. The Redhawks have lost more than 20 games each of the past three seasons.
‘"It was a great team effort. It feels good to be 1-0," Margenthaler said. "To open up at home against a very good opponent, to show these young girls we can do it. ... It's a big win for us."
The Raiders are coming off a 21-13 season that marked the most wins in their 25-year Division I history. They are again expected to be one of the Horizon League's top teams.
But they were no match for Southeast, which took control with an 18-4 first-half run that wiped out a 17-14 deficit and produced a 32-21 lead. The Redhawks remained ahead by double figures most of the rest of the way. They led 39-29 at halftime, and their biggest second-half advantage was 21 points.
"I thought it was really good," senior forward Brittany Harriel said of the performance.
Southeast had a host of strong individual performers, none more impressive than freshman guard Dru Haertling.
Haertling, a Jackson High School graduate, played just five minutes in Southeast's lone exhibition game.
With junior college transfer point guard Jordan Hunter in foul trouble much of the way Friday, Haertling played 25 minutes, fourth-most on the squad.
"Dru stepped up big time. I was very proud of her," Roberts said. "We wouldn't have won without her."
Haertling scored 10 points, grabbed seven rebounds and recorded three assists without a turnover. She made 4-of-5 field-goal attempts, including both her 3-pointers.
"I'm just really blessed to even be here," Haertling said. "I was just happy we won, we won at home. It was just an awesome experience."
Haertling primarily has been playing at the two-guard position but was only recently moved to point guard as Hunter's backup.
"Coach had prepared me before the game. He said I would be running the point guard rather than the two," Haertling said.
Margenthaler didn't hesitate turning to Haertling after Hunter picked up two fouls after about eight minutes.
Haertling played the rest of the first half and much of the second half after Hunter was hit with her third foul fewer than three minutes in.
"I thought she played really well off the bench. I thought she had a lot of poise," Margenthaler said.
Roberts posted her fourth career double-double with game highs of 16 points and 13 rebounds. She tied her career high on the boards.
Harriel had 13 points and nine rebounds while sophomore guard Allyson Bradshaw from Notre Dame Regional High School was a fourth double-figure scorer with 13 points.
Southeast also got strong play inside from junior forward Patricia Mack (six points, seven rebounds) and senior center Courtney Shiffer (eight points, three blocks), who bounced back from a first-half hip injury that left her hobbled.
Freshman forward Connor King, Haertling's teammate at Jackson High School, hit her only shot, a 3-pointer, while playing eight minutes.
"We played our butts off, every single person," Roberts said.
Southeast scored more points Friday than in all but one game last season, when the Redhawks averaged just 52.5 points.
Margenthaler believes the Redhawks' offense is greatly improved and they showed that Friday, shooting a solid 39.1 percent from the field (25 of 64) and 35.7 percent from 3-point range (10 of 28).
The Redhawks shot 34.1 percent from the field and 22.8 from beyond the arc a year ago.
"We have everybody on the court that can score," said Roberts, who hit 3 of 9 from 3-point range.
Southeast's defense also was solid, holding the Raiders to 32.1-percent shooting.
WSU sophomore guard Kim Demmings, the Horizon League preseason player of the year who led all Division I freshmen in scoring last year at 18.4 points per game, had 15 points against Southeast but shot just 6 of 28 from the field.
"I thought we frustrated her early," Margenthaler said.
Margenthaler also liked that Southeast committed only 14 turnovers, four in the first half. The Redhawks averaged 18 turnovers per contest last year.
"That was a huge key at halftime," Margenthaler said.
WSU made a late run, cutting the deficit to nine points, but Southeast hit 11 of 12 free throws in the final 92 seconds to ice the victory. Shiffer was 4 of 4 during that stretch.
"I was really proud of our young team for building on a lead in the second half. We made clutch free throws down the stretch," Margenthaler said. "Our players should feel really good about this win."
Southeast begins a stretch of six straight contests away from Cape Girardeau on Monday, visiting Missouri-Kansas City for a 7 p.m. tipoff.