No. 6 Bulldogs drop regular-season finale, claim share of GPAC title

No. 6 Bulldogs drop regular-season finale, claim share of GPAC title

SIOUX CITY, Iowa – Seventh-ranked Morningside completed the regular season unbeaten at home by rattling off an 86-77 win over the No. 6 Concordia women’s basketball team on Saturday. Despite the loss, the Bulldogs claimed a four-way share of the GPAC title thanks to Northwestern’s win over Hastings. It is the second conference regular-season title in three seasons for head coach Drew Olson’s program.

Concordia enters the postseason at 24-6 overall and 16-4 in GPAC play.

“We did a great job continuing to fight and putting ourselves in position,” Olson said. “It just felt like we were a cross country runner drafting behind hoping to sprint past at the finish line.”

A week after scoring a school record 45 points in a victory over No. 3 Northwestern, junior Bailey Morris struggled at times with her shot. The Morningside zone defense limited Morris to 7-for-23 shooting. However, the 5-foot-4 guard from Roseland, Neb., also added seven assists and five rebounds while nearly playing all 40 minutes.

Morningside (25-5, 16-4 GPAC) held a double digit lead for much of the second half, but Concordia made a late push and got the ball back down just 81-77 with 1:51 remaining. The 7-1 run for the Bulldogs was followed by a Lexi Ackerman 3-point play on the break that allowed the Mustangs to regain control.

While Concordia could not come through in its attempt to win the GPAC regular season outright, its 16-4 conference mark is particularly impressive given that starters Kristen Conahan and Jericca Pearson have missed a combined 24 games due to injury.

In the face of adversity, the Bulldogs rode Morris to an eight-game winning streak prior to Saturday’s loss.

“I hate losing,” Olson said. “I felt like we could have won today but you have to step back and consider what we were able to accomplish. A lot of people didn’t think we were capable of winning like we did with the injuries we had.

“We share it, but we are conference champions. I’m really proud of our team.”

The Mustangs, who had lost the previous five meetings with Concordia, made 7 of 10 first-half 3-pointers in building a 48-36 advantage at the break. The Bulldogs got within six early in the second half before Morningside pushed the lead back into double digits.

Freshman Becky Mueller served as a big reason why Concordia hung with Morningside on the road. Mueller tied a career high with 23 points on 8-for-11 shooting from the field. She nailed 4 of 6 shots from beyond the arc in stating her case in the race for GPAC Freshman of the Year honors.

“Becky played great,” Olson said. “Bailey played OK. She did a good job of being aggressive for 40 minutes against an a tough team. We just need others to step up. We need Tracy (Peitz) to stay out of foul trouble and we have to have other players knock down shots.”

After trailing 21-9 in the early going, the Bulldogs came back to tie by way of a 14-2 run. Concordia then trailed by as many as 15 points in the second half before rallying late behind Morris and Mueller.

Ackerman led the way with 22 points for Morningside, which has won nine-straight games.

As the No. 4 seed, the Bulldogs will host fifth-seeded Midland (15-15, 11-9 GPAC) at 7 p.m. on Wednesday in the first round of the GPAC tournament.

22 February 2014

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