After a dominant regular season in the Missouri Valley Conference, Drake dominated the conference’s individual postseason awards announced Thursday.
The Bulldogs’ Becca Hittner, Sammie Bachrodt and Sara Rhine joined coach Jennie Baranczyk in receiving awards presented between the first two games of the Missouri Valley Conference Championships at the TaxSlayer Center in Moline.
The recognition followed a second straight 18-0 regular season run through the conference by Drake, which tips off conference tourney play at noon today.
Missouri State assistant Jackie Stiles, a legendary player in the league, presented the most valuable player trophy named in her honor to Hittner, a Drake sophomore who averages 15.7 points and 4.7 rebounds per game.
Bachrodt, a junior who leads the conference in assists and is second in the league in steals, was honored as the defensive player of the year in the conference.
Rhine, a sophomore, was recognized as both the sixth player of the year and conference’s scholar-athlete of the year. The league’s top shooter at 58.4 percent averages 15.6 points per game and maintains a 4.0 grade-point average as an elementary education major.
Baranczyk was selected as the league’s coach of the year for the second straight season. The sixth-year coach has led Drake to 40 consecutive conference regular-season wins.
Illinois State junior Simone Goods, a transfer from Kirkwood Community College, was named the Missouri Valley newcomer of the year. Goods averaged 13.7 points and six rebounds per game for the Redbirds.
Southern Illinois’ Abby Brockmeyer was named the freshman of the year. She averages 10.1 points and 7.1 rebounds per game.
FRESH FLOOR: Thursday’s tournament opener between Valparaiso and Loyola marked the first game played on the new basketball court at the TaxSlayer Center.
Outlined in black with a red "Quad-Cities" painted on one end line and "TaxSlayer Center" on the other, the court features a red circle with Quad-Cities painted around the center jump circle, which is covered by a Hoops in the Heartland logo for the ongoing tournament.
The court replaces one that saw its share of history, brought to the Quad-Cities in 1993 after being used at the Final Four in New Orleans that season.
It was on that court in that year’s NCAA title game that Michigan’s Chris Webber called a timeout the Wolverines didn’t have remaining with 11 seconds left in a 73-71 game against North Carolina.
The Tar Heels connected on the technical free throws and won a 77-71 game against the Wolverines.
FIRST-TIME GUEST: Valparaiso senior Dani Franklin grew up in Cedar Rapids where she played basketball at Washington High School, but this is the first time she has visited what is now the TaxSlayer Center.
"Nice place," Franklin said.
Franklin liked it even more after the Crusaders beat Loyola for the third time this season and she led the way with 25 points.
It marked the first time since 2004 Valparaiso has beaten one team three times in a single season. That year, IUPUI was the team and the Crusaders went on to win the Mid-Continent Conference title.
TRUE TO FORM: A seventh seed following a 6-12 regular season left Bradley playing on the first day of the Missouri Valley tourney for the fifth straight year, but the Braves extended another trend as well.
Thursday’s 77-49 win over Evansville allowed Bradley to advance to the conference quarterfinals for the third consecutive season.
The 28-point win over the Purple Aces was the closest game of the season between the teams. Bradley previously won by 117-59 and 92-47 scores.