Frantic late rally comes up short in top 10 showdown

Frantic late rally comes up short in top 10 showdown

SEWARD, Neb. – After busting out of the gates with a 15-4 lead, No. 5 Concordia relinquished the advantage before halftime and struggled defensively for the early part of the second half on the way to a 77-74 loss to No. 10 Jamestown (N.D.) on Friday night. Led by hot-shooting point guard Hannah Steele, the Jimmies spoiled day one of the 14th annual Cattle Classic for Drew Olson’s Bulldogs. The loss dropped Concordia to 3-1 on the season.

“It’s a tough loss,” Olson said. “I’m really proud of our kids to battle back. I’m told them the last seven minutes is how we need to play. We had a great focus defensively. We just kept grinding, one possession at a time.

“Jamestown’s a great team and it was a great basketball game.”

After trailing by as many as 16 points, the Bulldogs had a final possession with a chance to tie if they could knock down a trey. Junior guard Tracy Peitz opted for a drive to the bucket but couldn’t get the heavily guarded layup to drop with under five seconds remaining. Jamestown’s Jordan Bridges came down with the rebound and the Jimmies secured the road victory.

“It’s good to play teams like that early on and see what you’re made of,” Olson said. “Hopefully we can learn from it.”

Jamestown hung on for the win despite going scoreless over the final 4:58 of game time. Concordia ended the game on an 11-0 run with six of those points coming from junior Kelsey Hizer. Fellow junior Bailey Morris’ layup with 1:01 left proved to be the final points of the contest.

Concordia enjoyed early success with juniors Jericca Pearson and Peitz getting easy buckets down low. Peitz capped Concordia’s 15-4 game-opening spurt by blowing past her defender for a layup. Following a familiar script, Concordia smothered its opponent the length of the court defensively and translated turnovers into points to build the lead.

That’s when Steele went to work. She finished with a game high-tying 19 points fueled by 4-for-6 shooting from 3-point range. She nailed three triples in the first 10 minutes of play. Steele eventually fouled out with 2:25 remaining in the game.

Jamestown took its first lead at 34-32 late in the first half with a Chelsey Frydenlund baseline jumper. Concordia responded soon after, regaining the lead when Hizer hauled in an offensive rebound and laid the ball in the bucket. The Jimmies would go on a run to take a 42-39 lead to the half.

Pearson had a big night on the glass with 15 rebounds to go along with her 13 points. The native of Gibbon, Neb., already has two double-doubles this season and is averaging 15.0 points and 9.5 rebounds.

Peitz led the team with 18 points. Morris added 17 and senior Kristen Conahan chipped in 10. Conahan made 2 of 4 attempts from 3-point range. One of her misses came with :37 left with Concordia down three.

Olson felt like a different outcome was possible had his team played a full 40 minutes of solid defense.

“Our focus just wasn’t there defensively (for the entire game),” Olson said. “It took us a little time to figure out what they were doing. Once we did buckle down and play really good in the half court as you saw, we took command of the game. It was just too late.”

The Bulldogs continue play at the Cattle Classic on Saturday when they host Valley City State University (N.D.) at 5 p.m. The Vikings, who received votes in the NAIA preseason coaches’ poll, topped Doane, 68-65, on Friday inside Walz Arena.

8 November 2013

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Junior Jericca Pearson