SEWARD, Neb. – With two championship trophies (CIT and GPAC regular season) already secured this season, the top-rated Concordia University women’s basketball team has a chance to add more hardware this postseason. The top-seeded Bulldogs begin the postseason on Wednesday when eighth-seeded Briar Cliff makes a visit to Seward. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. CST from Walz Arena.
Live coverage will be provided on Wednesday by 104.9 Max Country (play-by-play by Tyler Cavalli), the radio home of Concordia athletics. The game will also be streamed live via the Concordia Sports Network.
The Bulldogs can boast at least a share of the GPAC regular-season title now for the sixth time in program history. Five of those championships have come during Drew Olson’s tenure, which began with the 2006-07 season. In the history of the GPAC (began with 2000-01 campaign), Concordia owns the second most women’s basketball regular season titles behind only Morningside (nine). The Bulldogs are shooting for their sixth all-time GPAC tournament title. Postseason crowns were captured in 2005, 2012, 2015, 2017 and 2018.
Olson’s latest GPAC champion has arrived at this point while following the lead of star backcourt of Grace Barry and Taylor Cockerill and frontcourt of Philly Lammers and Quinn Wragge. Of course, Olson would also point out the value provided by defensive dynamo Riley Sibbel. While Concordia returned plenty of key components from last season’s national runner up, Barry, Cockerill and Sibbel are each first-year starters. They have made for a smooth transition after the graduation of Dani Hoppes and Mary Janovich from the 2017-18 squad.
Hoppes and Janovich were well regarded defenders in their own right, but somehow the Bulldog press has been even more devastating this season, at least by the numbers. The 2014-15 squad, led by NAIA National Player of the Year Bailey Morris, owns the school single season record for turnovers forced in a season (1,014). That team averaged 26.7 turnovers forced per game. The current squad has coaxed opponents into 939 turnovers for an average of 31.3 per contest. Concordia boasts each of the top three on the GPAC steals leaderboard: Barry (3.63), Sibbel (2.70) and Lammers (2.60).
Head coach Mike Power’s squad made its way into the GPAC tournament by winning two of its final three regular season games, including a 78-61 victory over intra-city rival Morningside. The Chargers play a style similar to what the Bulldogs employ. They rank sixth nationally in steals per game (13.3) and make 35.9 percent of their 3-point attempts. In the two meetings this season with Concordia, Briar Cliff fell by scores of 99-71 in Sioux City and 87-58 in Seward. Taylor Wagner is the team’s leading scorer at 11.1 points per game.
The team that emerges from Walz Arena as a winner will advance to the semifinals and play either fourth-seeded Dordt or fifth-seeded Hastings on Saturday. The GPAC championship game will be held on Tuesday, Feb. 26.
(Scoring average in parentheses)
Concordia (27-3, 19-3 GPAC)
G – Grace Barry, Jr., 5-7 (10.8)
G – Taylor Cockerill, So., 5-9 (16.1)
G – Riley Sibbel, Jr., 5-9 (5.2)
F – Quinn Wragge, Sr., 6-0 (10.6)
F – Philly Lammers, Jr., 5-11 (14.6)
Briar Cliff (15-15, 9-13 GPAC)
G – Breanna Allen, So., 5-6 (4.0)
G – Alyssa Carley, Jr., 5-11 (10.5)
G – Taylor Wagner, Sr., 5-9 (11.1)
F – Madelyn Deitchler, Fr., 5-11 (7.0)
C – Taylor Vasa, Sr., 6-0 (7.2)
Quarterfinals – Wednesday, Feb. 20
No. 8 Briar Cliff (15-15, 9-13) at No. 1 Concordia (27-3, 19-3), 7 p.m.
No. 5 Hastings (18-11, 13-9) at No. 4 Dordt (20-10, 13-9), 7 p.m.
No. 6 Morningside (19-11, 11-11) at No. 3 Dakota Wesleyan (26-4, 18-4), 6 p.m.
No. 7 Midland (15-13, 10-12) at No. 2 Northwestern (25-3, 19-3), 7 p.m.
Semifinals – Saturday, Feb. 23
No. 1/8 winner vs. No. 4/5 winner, time TBA
No. 2/7 winner vs. No. 3/6 winner, time TBA
Championship – Tuesday, Feb. 26