SIOUX CITY, Iowa – The first quarter made it appear as though the second-ranked Concordia University women’s basketball team would cruise to the national championship game. But third-ranked Saint Xavier University (Ill.) came roaring back with a dominant third quarter, shot impossibly well from 3-point range and broke down the Bulldog zone. The Cougars won, 91-83, sending Concordia home with a loss in the national semifinals on Monday night inside the Tyson Events Center in Sioux City, Iowa.
Eleventh-year head coach Drew Olson’s squad ends its season with a record of 34-3 overall for the third most wins in a single season in program history. The Bulldogs have accomplished just about everything there is to accomplish under Olson, including three GPAC regular-season and tournament titles and three trips to the national semifinals. They are still searching for that elusive national title.
“It doesn’t take away from our season,” Olson said. “It was a great season – an incredible team. The accomplishments are many. At the same time, you’re a competitor. You always want to get to that next level. You always want to find a way to win that last game. We’re disappointed, but we’ll go back to work next year.”
Concordia is left thinking about what could have been after being burned by the outside shooting of Saint Xavier. The Bulldogs went 12-for-24 from beyond the arc, but the Cougars (34-2) were even better. Behind Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference player of the year Kara Krolicki (26 points), Saint Xavier drilled 16-of-28 shots from long distance.
Even Dani Andersen’s white-hot performance (7-for-11 from 3-point range) couldn’t save Concordia, which was put on its heels by a 20-0 Cougar run to end the third quarter. Once leading 28-11, the Bulldogs found themselves in an eight-point hole (61-53) entering the final 10 minutes. Saint Xavier had found its footing and gained its composure after struggling early against the press.
“That first period was an eternity for me,” said Saint Xavier head coach Bob Hallberg. “After the first period we were nervous. There was a home-court advantage down here. The best thing about a pressing team is when the fans are making a lot of noise, there’s an intimidation factor. Concordia brings such a great following with them. We couldn’t get rid of the ball fast enough in the first period. Once we settled down and played our game, we showed what we can do.”
Really, Olson could not have scripted a better opening quarter. Philly Lammers was unstoppable. She went for 13 points and five rebounds and Andersen poured in nine of her 21 points in that first 10 minutes. The Cougars were able to crack down on Lammers, who finished with 15 points and 12 rebounds, and hit the Bulldogs with a flurry of triples, including seven from Krolicki and another five from Maddie Welter.
“We jumped on them pretty good and got a big lead. Then it was just lights out,” Olson said. “I’ve never seen a team shoot like that. It was a really impressive display by them.”
Concordia did all it could in the fourth quarter from an offensive perspective. The problem was that it was simply trading buckets while playing catch up. The Bulldogs had one more last gasp when Mary Janovich made a trey to make it a seven-point deficit (88-81) in the final minute. Shelby Quinn then stole the ball in the backcourt and Janovich rose up for another triple that misfired. The door had closed.
It’s the end of the line for six seniors, including Quinn, the team’s point guard, and a group of key role players off the bench.
“Those six seniors are incredible. Just great people,” Olson said. “They were incredible for the team culture we had. I’m going to miss them a ton. That’s what I’m really thinking about.”
All five starters reached double figures for Concordia with Andersen’s 21 points leading the way. Lammers and Quinn Wragge both had 15. Mary Janovich added 12 points, four assists and two steals and Quinn wasn’t far off a triple-double with her 11 points, nine rebounds and eight assists.
The Bulldogs had hoped to complete unfinished business left behind from 2015 when they lost a heartbreaker, 59-57, to rival Morningside in the national championship game. In that classic battle, Concordia led by as many as 12 points and held an advantage in the final minute before being clipped at the end by the Mustangs.
The Bulldogs will be back. They will return four of five starters, including Lammers, who averaged 12.8 points and 9.8 rebounds during her first run at the national tournament. Janovich, a junior, was the GPAC defensive player of the year.