By BLAKE TOPPMEYER
Herald-Whig Sports Writer
The Quincy University women's basketball team almost certainly will need to win this weekend's Great Lakes Valley Conference Tournament to earn a spot in the NCAA Division II Tournament.
QU coach Jeni Garber and her Lady Hawks understand this, but they're trying not to think about it too much. Their line of thinking is that it's impossible to win a championship if you can't first get through the quarterfinals.
"We know what's at stake, but we just want to really play well and do a good job in our first game," Garber said.
No. 4-seeded QU (14-12, 12-6) will face No. 5 Wisconsin-Parkside (19-8, 12-6) at 8:30 p.m. Friday in the quarterfinals at the Ford Center in Evansville, Ind.
UWP is ranked No. 7 in the Midwest Region rankings and probably needs at least one more win to sit in a comfortable position of making the national tournament. The Rangers are one of five GLVC teams in the top 10 in the region. QU, despite its lofty conference mark, is not among them.
Quincy's early season struggles and suffering four straight losses before claiming an 80-65 win at Illinois-Springfield in the regular-season finale severely damaged the Lady Hawks' chances of receiving an at-large berth.
Eight teams make the national tournament from the Midwest Region. The winners of the GLVC and Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference tournaments receive automatic bids, and the top six remaining teams in the region rankings will earn at-large selection.
"We all, I think, know we have to get (the tournament title)," QU junior guard Lucy Cramsey said. "But it's all about taking one game at a time and not being scared of the outcome as long as we just put in our top effort. That's our mindset."
The Lady Hawks' focus, Cramsey said, should be on making sure they have solid rebounding and defense, pillars that helped Quincy win 12 of 14 games during a stretch starting in December and continuing through early February.
Quincy is 12-0 this season when holding its opponent to less than 40 percent shooting. The Lady Hawks are 12-7 when they outrebound their opponent.
"We just have to get back to the basics, the fundamentals, and remembering what got us the (first-round) bye and gave us the wins in this season," Cramsey said.
Offensively, QU is at its best when it gets balance from all five starters. That was the case in the season finale, when starters Cramsey, Kelly Buresh, Hannah Weedman, Felisha Loggins and Maggie Cunningham all scored at least 14 points.
Cramsey, a first-team, All-GLVC selection leads the team in scoring (11.9 points per game) and rebounding (7.8 per game). Buresh, a sophomore forward, is supplying 11.7 points and 4.9 rebounds per game. She's shooting 42 percent from 3-point range. Weedman, a junior center, is averaging 10.2 points and five rebounds per game.
The Lady Hawks will face the team with the best scoring defense in the league in the quarterfinals. UWP's opponents are averaging 55.7 points per game this season. The Rangers benefit from a high-pressure, physical half-court defense.
Possessions could be at a premium, too. UWP generally slows the game down and averages 66.8 possessions per game, fourth-fewest in the GLVC. Quincy averages 68.2 possessions per game.
"They're very aggressive in the half-court (defense)," Garber said. "We're just going to have to keep our heads about us and be calm with it."