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Women's Basketball Makes SLU History with First Conference Championship, NCAA Tourney Bid

by Maggie Rotermund
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Maggie Rotermund
Senior Media Relations Specialist

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ST. LOUIS – “It still hasn’t sunk in.”

One week after winning the Atlantic 10 tournament and securing the first NCAA Championship bid in Saint Louis University’s women’s basketball history and minutes after the Selection Show ended Sunday night, SLU senior and St. Louis native Brooke Flowers said the impact of being first hadn’t fully sunk in.

Selection Show Sunday

The SLU women's basketball team watches the NCAA Selection Show on Sunday, March 12. Billiken Athletics photo. 

“That moment when we won was so amazing and it was so cool to think we were the first team to do it,” she said. “But I can’t really believe yet that we made SLU history.”

The third-seeded Billikens secured the first NCAA Tournament bid in program history with a 91-85 overtime victory over top-seeded Massachusetts March 5 in the Atlantic 10 Championship final. The game was also the first time the Billikens had played in an A-10 Championship title game.

“I couldn’t be more proud of these women and what they’ve accomplished,” said Athletic Director Chris May.

From the Stands - Coach Tillett talks about prepping for the post-season 

The Billikens, who finished their first season under Coach Rebecca Tillett at 17-17, started off the year by finding their footing together and finished strong with 11 wins in their final 12 games.

“I think of this team as a merger,” said senior guard Kyla McMakin. “There are the people who were here and people like me who came with Tillett from Longwood and the freshman coming in as well. We had to figure out how to work together.”

Working together brought conference honors for team members, including All-Atlantic 10 second-team selections for fifth-year forward/center Flowers and senior guard McMakin. Flowers was selected the A-10’s co-Defensive Player of the Year and is a semifinalist for the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year award. She was joined on the league’s All-Defensive team by senior guard Julia Martinez, who also earned Most Outstanding Player honors at the A-10 Championship.

From the Stands - Julia Martinez talks A-10 Championship

Tillett said the women on the team bring joy and passion to everything they do during the games, but also to their preparation.

“Today in practice Julia is jumping out of bounds, leaping over the only chairs on the floor,” she said. “She wasn’t holding back because it was a practice. They work hard on every drill to be ready for every game.”

Junior forward Peyton Kennedy said each member of the team brings something special to the mix.

“Every part of this team makes a difference – from the starters to the people on the bench who cheer so hard for everyone else,” she said.

Kennedy said she felt the team really gel after the Dec. 8  loss at home to Wichita State, where the Billikens came back from a large deficit to lose 74-77. 

“That come back really showed our toughness,” she said. “A little more time on the clock and we could have won.” 

A win in late January over Fordham University kicked off the late-season tear for the Billikens.

“We took that energy into the conference tournament and we knew we could play with anyone,” Kennedy said.

The confidence on the court starts with mindfulness sessions. The breathing sessions before a game have helped with focus during the game.

Tillett also credits the team’s leadership council with bringing the players together. Team members had to apply to be on the council, writing an essay and participating in an interview with coaching staff before being accepted. 

Brooke Flowers
Brooke Flowers. Billiken Athletics photo.

“They put in the extra time to be leaders,” Tillett said. “They meet with us regularly in what could be their down time.”

Flowers said being a part of the council has helped her grow as a woman outside of the sport.

“It’s been special to be a part of this core group and help make decisions for the team,” she said. “I’ve learned life skills that will carry me forward beyond SLU.”

Culture of Camaraderie

Since coming to SLU from Longwood University over the summer, Tillett said she has been impressed by the camaraderie and culture of Billiken Athletics.

“There are a lot of places where that isn’t the case, but here there is a real bond among the staff,” she said.  “I heard that the baseball team was watching our championship game up until their game started that day and once the game started, they were asking people for updates. We are all rooting for each other and that doesn’t happen everywhere.”

Kennedy, an entrepreneurship major from Rockford, Illinois, echoed that statement and said she loves the support SLU provides its athletes.

“I came here because it has the best business programs and I’m not too far from home,” she said. “But we also have a great culture for women’s sports.”

Tuning in

The Billikens take on the Tennessee Lady Volunteers in first-round action Saturday, March 18, at UT’s Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville, Tennessee. The game is slated to tip off at 12:06 p.m. Central on ABC.
SLU, a No. 13 seed, takes on No. 4 seed University of Tennessee. The SLU/Tennessee winner faces the winner of the Iowa State/Toledo matchup on Monday, March 20.

2023 A-10 Women's Champions

The Billikens won the Atlantic 10 women's basketball tournament championship on Sunday, March 5. Billiken Athletics Photo. 

Saint Louis University 

Founded in 1818, Saint Louis University is one of the nation’s oldest and most prestigious Catholic institutions. Rooted in Jesuit values and its pioneering history as the first university west of the Mississippi River, SLU offers more than 13,500 students a rigorous, transformative education of the whole person. At the core of the University’s diverse community of scholars is SLU’s service-focused mission, which challenges and prepares students to make the world a better, more just place.