Ninth-ranked Bulldogs host big week of GPAC basketball

Ninth-ranked Bulldogs host big week of GPAC basketball

SEWARD, Neb. – This week will likely decide whether the ninth-ranked Concordia women’s basketball team will hoist the GPAC regular-season championship trophy for the second time in three seasons. The Bulldogs host Midland (13-13, 9-7 GPAC) at 6 p.m. on Wednesday and before welcoming No. 3 Northwestern (22-2, 14-2 GPAC) at 2 p.m. on Saturday in what has the potential to be a game of significant importance. Both contests will be streamed live and free online via the Concordia Sports Network.

Saturday will also be Senior Day as the careers of Britney Birtell, Kristen Conahan and Lori Laboda will be celebrated.

Home basketball promotions this week:
-Wednesday: Concordia vs. Midland (6/8 p.m.) – Red out game (fans are encouraged to wear red in support of Heart Health Month). Prizes will be given away at halftime.
-Saturday: Concordia vs. Northwestern (2/4 p.m.)Fan Appreciation/Senior Day. An ice cream social will be held in between games.

Analyzing the GPAC race

1. Northwestern: 14-2

-What’s left: at Dakota Wesleyan (2/12), at Concordia (2/15), vs. Dordt (2/19), vs. Hastings (2/22)

2. Concordia: 14-3

-What’s left: vs. Midland (2/12), vs. Northwestern (2/15), at Morningside (2/22)

3. Hastings: 13-3

-What’s left: vs. Nebraska Wesleyan (2/12), vs. Dakota Wesleyan (2/15), at Midland (2/19), at Northwestern (2/22)

4. Morningside: 12-4

-What’s left: at Dordt (2/12), at Doane (2/15), vs. Briar Cliff (2/19), vs. Concordia (2/22)

Heading into the final two weeks of the GPAC regular season, four teams remain in contention for the GPAC crown. The top three teams all control their own destinies for at least a share of the title. The fact that three matchups between the top four teams remain on the schedule should make for an exciting finish. The Bulldogs are involved in two of those games as they host Northwestern and travel to Morningside to close the season.

Masseyratings.com projects the GPAC’s top four to finish with the following conference marks:

1. Northwestern: 18-2
T2. Hastings: 16-4
T2. Morningside: 16-4
4. Concordia: 15-5

Three seniors set to play final regular-season home game
The senior trio of Britney Birtell, Kristen Conahan and Lori Laboda will be recognized on Saturday for their contributions over the past four seasons. Collectively, they have combined for 2,607 points, 1,158 rebounds, 435 assists and 479 steals over 318 total games. The senior class owns a career record of 96-32 (.750). In their first three seasons, they have been part of two national tournaments, one GPAC regular-season and tournament title and one appearance in the national semifinals.

Britney Birtell: "My time at Concordia has been a great one! I am so blessed to have gone to a school surrounded by Christian coaches, professors and peers. I especially want to thank my parents, Coach Olson and Coach Harms for setting a good example of how I should live my life for Jesus and for always being there for me. -Go Dawgs!"

  • Career: Birtell, who hails from Madison, Neb., has played in 82 games over the last four seasons, totaling 252 points and 185 rebounds. She tallied a career high 17 points on Nov. 5, 2011, in a win over Tabor College.

Kristen Conahan: “Concordia has been a great experience for me. I have been blessed with so many memories here, and it's definitely a place I can call home. One of my favorite memories would have to be winning GPAC at home my sophomore year, when all of the fans stormed the court. It was an exciting year, we ended up making it to the final four at nationals. I want to thank God for blessing me with amazing parents, teammates and coaches throughout my career. I know I wouldn't have been able to be as successful without my wonderful parents who came to every game, and my teammates who pushed me every day at practice. I want to thank my coaches for getting after me and holding me to high expectations on and off the court. I am so thankful for my opportunity at Concordia. I wouldn't change it for the world. GO DAWGS!! :)”

  • Career: Conahan will go down as one of the greatest players in the history of one of the NAIA’s top women’s basketball programs. Conahan ranks sixth in school history in career scoring with 1,654 points and is a two-time NAIA All-American. The Omaha native had been well on pace to break the school scoring record until suffering an injury on Jan. 8. Conahan has also been a first team all-GPAC selection the last two seasons and last year was named honorary captain of the Omaha World-Herald NAIA All-Nebraska team. She has made 323 career 3-point field goals.

Lori Laboda: “Wow, these last four years have gone by so quickly! It feels like just yesterday I was a freshman moving into David Hall. I have loved my time here at Concordia. I have been blessed with awesome teachers, coaches and friends. Basketball the last four years has been such a great experience. I have had great teammates and made so many memories that will last a lifetime. I want to thank my coaches and professors for making college a great learning experience for me. I would like to thank my parents and grandparents. I would never be where I am today without all of their love and support.”

  • Career: Laboda has amassed 701 points, 688 rebounds, 163 steals and 133 assists in 116 career games as a Bulldog. She led the team in rebounding as both a sophomore and junior. Laboda, a native of Parker, Colo., is a two-time honorable mention all-GPAC selection.

Previous meeting with Midland
The Bulldogs came away with an 82-74 win in Fremont, Neb., on Jan. 8 on a night when the biggest stories were the injuries to star guards Kristen Conahan and Bailey Morris. Concordia triumphed despite getting only a combined eight points from Conahan and Morris. Junior Tracy Peitz had a monster game with 26 points and 12 rebounds to fuel the win. Concordia held Midland to 39.0 percent shooting and forced 24 turnovers.

Previous meeting with Northwestern
The Jan.11 trip to Northwestern came right on the heels of the costly win at Midland. A depleted Bulldog team fell by a score of 86-68 in Orange City, Iowa. Drew Olson’s squad struggled to stay with the combo of Alli Engebretson and Mackenzie Small, who collectively went 9-for-11 from beyond the arc. On a positive note, freshman Devin Edwards tallied a career high 12 points and four assists in 28 minutes of action.

Concordia at a glance
Individual leaders
Scoring: Bailey Morris – 18.0
Rebounds: Tracy Peitz – 5.9
Assists: Morris – 3.85
Steals: Peitz – 2.48
Blocks: Peitz – 0.44
Team
Scoring offense: 82.1 (3rd in GPAC)
Scoring defense: 71.3 (8th in GPAC)

Midland at a glance
Individual leaders
Scoring: Jamilah Johnson – 14.4
Rebounds: Sammi Licari – 6.4
Assists: Licari – 3.23
Steals: Licari – 2.46
Blocks: Taylor Shepard – 0.65
Team
Scoring offense: 69.7 (10th in GPAC)
Scoring defense: 68.5 (3rd in GPAC) 

Northwestern at a glance
Individual leaders
Scoring: Allie Engebretson – 18.7
Rebounds: Samantha Kleinsasser – 7.5
Assists: Paige O’Neal – 5.5
Steals: Mackenzie Small – 2.04
Blocks: Kleinsasser – 1.71
Team
Scoring offense: 91.3 (1st in GPAC)
Scoring defense: 68.8 (4th in GPAC) 

Weekend outlook

There’s plenty on the line as Concordia completes the home portion of the 2013-14 regular-season schedule. The Bulldogs look for a season sweep of Midland and a season split with Northwestern. The Warriors have had an up and down season. They boast four wins over top 25 teams but have struggled to string together wins since a 7-2 start to the season. Even so, Midland has made big strides in head coach Shawn Gilbert’s first year and poses a significant threat.

The schedule won’t lighten up over the final two games as third-ranked Northwestern visits Seward Saturday. The Red Raiders sit at or near the top of the GPAC in virtually every major statistical category and are averaging nearly 23 points per game more than their opponents. Concordia will have to do a better job of containing Northwestern’s Allie Engebretson and Mackenzie Small, who were nearly automatic from the perimeter in the first meeting. The Red Raiders sit in the driver’s seat in the race for the GPAC title.

11 February 2014

Senior Kristen Conahan