Morris drops school record 45 points as Bulldogs knock off No. 3 Northwestern

Morris drops school record 45 points as Bulldogs knock off No. 3 Northwestern

SEWARD, Neb. – Saturday’s frenetically paced NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball Game of the Week quickly turned into the Bailey Morris variety show. She scored in virtually every way possible in leading No. 7 Concordia to an 89-78 victory over third-ranked Northwestern (22-4, 14-4 GPAC) in a battle of GPAC frontrunners.

At 24-5 overall and 16-3 in GPAC action, eighth-year head coach Drew Olson’s Bulldogs hold a half game lead over Hastings (15-3) and have now moved 1.5 games up on the Red Raiders.

“That was a great basketball game,” Olson said. “Both teams played hard. Our kids really stepped up. Bailey’s performance obviously stands out with 45 points.

“We needed other players to step up and they did.”

With the spotlight shining on Saturday’s showdown, Morris went off for 28 points in the first half and then 17 more in the second half to shatter the school single-game scoring record. The Roseland, Neb., native’s 45 points eclipsed the former program mark of 37 by Amber Kistler in 2012.

“I was pretty happy with my performance,” Morris said. “My shots were falling. Their type of defense is one that we can attack a lot. We had a lot of people step up.”

Morris, winner of the last two GPAC player of the week awards, went 12-for-26 from the field (4-for-8 from 3-point range) and 17-for-18 from the free throw line. She added eight rebounds, six assists and two steals in 39 minutes of action.

The absence of the 5-foot-4 floor general in the first meeting with Northwestern doomed the Bulldogs to a lopsided 86-68 defeat in Orange City, Iowa, on Jan. 11. With Concordia aiming for its second GPAC crown in three seasons, Morris refused to allow the Bulldogs to fall on their home court.

“That scoreboard up there says ‘Bulldogs’ and we definitely played like Bulldogs today,” Morris said. “I couldn’t be more proud to be on this team.”

After trailing 43-42 at the break, Concordia gained the advantage early in the second half and held it virtually the entire way. The Bulldogs got big 3-point buckets from freshmen Devin Edwards, Becky Mueller and Shelby Quinn. Then there were the tough points in the paint that came from junior Ashley Kuntz (eight points, three steals).

Those contributions were much needed as Tracy Peitz got whistled for her fourth foul early in the second half before being charged with her fifth personal at the 7:20 mark with Concordia up 69-65.

Concordia eventually put the game away with a 14-0 run that turned a tight two-point game into an 87-71 lead with only 2:06 left on the clock. Morris initiated the run with two free throws and junior Kelsey Hizer piggy-backed with a triple to ignite a large Walz Arena crowd. Morris sank nine points during the run that sealed up win No. 24.

“We went to a zone that was able to slow their tempo down a little bit and we were able to identify their shooters better,” Olson said. “Defensively I thought we did a nice job. Offensively it was just kids stepping up and making plays when we needed it. Every time Northwestern would cut into our lead, we always seemed to be able to make a big shot.”

The Bulldog zone defense limited Northwestern sharpshooters Alli Engebretson and Mackenzie Small to a combined 4-for-14 effort from 3-point range, a stark contrast to their 9-for-11 3-point shooting in the first meeting. Engebretson finished with 27 points to lead the Red Raiders, who have now lost two in a row.

On an afternoon when Morris provided most of the firepower, Hizer was the only other Bulldog to reach double figures as she went for 11 points in addition to four rebounds and two steals.

Concordia is now in the midst of an improbable eight-game winning streak while dealing with numerous injuries to key players. Senior guard Kristen Conahan again sat out on Saturday.

There’s no complaining. These Bulldogs just find ways to win.

“I think when we had a couple players go down, people kind of counted us out,” Morris said. “But we’re a tough team. People step up. We go to practice every day and push each other and make each other better and it transfers to games.”

The Bulldogs have a week off before playing their final game of the GPAC regular season next Saturday. Concordia will take its act on the road against No. 8 Morningside (23-5, 14-4 GPAC). A win would guarantee at least a share of the GPAC regular-season title for the Bulldogs, who can capture an outright championship with a victory and a loss by Hastings in one of its two remaining games.

15 February 2014

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Bailey Morris' 45 points broke the school single-game scoring record.

Concordia's three seniors (left to right): Lori Laboda, Kristen Conahan and Britney Birtell.