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Cirone leads Illinois St. to first NCAA berth in three seasons

ST. CHARLES, Mo. (AP) -- Kristi Cirone scored 20 points to lead Illinois State to a 70-62 victory over Drake in the championship game of the Missouri Valley Conference tournament Sunday.

It was Illinois State's first NCAA tournament berth in three seasons. Cirone, a regular season MVP, earned the tournament's most valuable player award Sunday.

The top-seeded Redbirds (26-6) dominated the boards, outrebounding Drake 43-29 for the game.

Ashleen Bracey had 14 points and 16 rebounds, matching her semifinals performance against Creighton a day earlier. Maggie Krick also had 14 points for Illinois State.

The Bulldogs (22-10), who were defending tournament champions, were led by Lindsay Whorton's 17 points and Jill Martin's 16 points.

The Redbirds, who trailed by as many as nine in the first half, used a 14-6 run near the end of the half and only trailed 35-34 at the break.

Illinois State took the lead for good with a 7-2 run at the outset of the second half.