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  • Associated Press photos
    Belmont guard Darby Maggard drives against Eastern Kentucky forward Jalen O’Bannon during the Ohio Valley Conference championship game.

  • Maggard, a Canterbury graduate, had a first-team All-OVC season in leading the Bruins to a berth in the women’s NCAA Tournament.
March 14, 2017 1:03 AM

Women's NCAA Tournament

Maggard has team dancing

Canterbury grad helps Belmont repeat as OVC champs

Aubree Reichel | The Journal Gazette

Canterbury graduate Darby Maggard and Leo and IPFW grad Cam Newbauer are dancing once again with Belmont women’s basketball.

The Bruins are a No. 13 seed in the Lexington Regional and will face No. 4-seed Kentucky, the team found out Monday night.

Tipoff is noon Friday at Memorial Coliseum in Lexington, Kentucky.

“Darby came to watch us play them her senior year of high school (in 2015),” Newbauer said in a phone interview. “It was a 3-point game. They were No. 8 in the country, it was a 3-point game, we had the ball, down 3 with 8 or 10 minutes left in the game.

“We’re a different team than what we are then.”

It’s the first back-to-back appearance in the tournament for Belmont and its third overall appearance.

All but one player on this year’s roster experienced the tournament last year and the team graduated only one senior from the 2016 team.

“We’ve worked the whole year on being one game better and one day better,” Maggard said, “and I think to be able to do it two years in a row is something special. Being able to go to the NCAA Tournament is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and to be able to do that twice is amazing.

“When we saw our name pop up on the big screen (on Monday night), it was awesome just to be able to see our name and think about all the work we’ve put in. It’s truly an honor to have our name up there.”

The Bruins enter the tournament with a 27-5 record, winners of 21 straight games and 16-0 in the Ohio Valley Conference.

The team’s last loss was a 75-74 setback against Minnesota on Dec. 14. The winning steak the third-longest active winning streaks behind UConn (107) and Drake (22).

Maggard, a 5-foot-5 guard, was one of three Bruins named to All-OVC first team and All-Tournament Team, and Newbauer was named as the conference’s coach of the year.

Last year’s season ended with a 74-60 loss to Michigan State, but Belmont trailed 52-47 at the end of the third quarter.

This year, Newbauer’s team has learned from the tournament experience and continued to grow throughout the year.

“I think it’s going to help a lot, just confidence-wise and knowing what it takes,” he said. “First time playing a game of that caliber, the adrenaline is on a whole different level. You know what to expect in that regard.

“We kept playing through mistakes and learning how to make the next play. If we can do that (against Kentucky), we have a chance.”

Maggard has averaged 14.4 points, and shoots 49.5 percent from the floor, including 49.1 percent from 3.

The work has been put in throughout the past year but, as is characteristic of her, Maggard is quick to give all the credit to her team.

“I would say it’s just a matter of our team,” Maggard said, “as we’ve kept going and kept playing and gotten more comfortable throughout the season, our offensive just flows. I have amazing teammates that are getting me the ball and I just take open shots. I think that it just comes with playing with great players.”

areichel@jg.net