2023 GPAC WBB Quarterfinal Preview: Concordia at Jamestown

By Jacob Knabel on Feb. 20, 2023 in Women's Basketball

SEWARD, Neb. – The slate is wiped clean this week as postseason play begins throughout the NAIA basketball landscape. The Concordia University Women’s Basketball team hopes to find success on the road as it prepares for a trip to play No. 19 Jamestown in the GPAC quarterfinals on Tuesday (the contest was originally scheduled for Wednesday). The Bulldogs fell back to the No. 6 seed in the conference tournament after enduring two losses last week – 56-51 at home to No. 23 Briar Cliff and 61-54 at Dakota Wesleyan. Head Coach Drew Olson’s squad completed the regular season at 18-10 overall (14-6 GPAC).

This Week

GPAC Quarterfinals – Tuesday, Feb. 21 at No. 19 Jamestown (21-7, 16-6 GPAC), 6 p.m.
--Webcast | Live Stats | Location: Newman Arena (Jamestown, N.D.)

GPAC Semifinals – Saturday, Feb. 25 (if Concordia wins on Wednesday)

By the numbers

·        A win this past weekend would have given the Bulldogs the No. 4 seed. Instead, they tied for fifth in the conference along with Northwestern (14-8). The top four in the standings are Dordt (20-2), Briar Cliff (17-5), Jamestown (16-6) and Dakota Wesleyan (15-7). This is about the time of year when observers of the league begin to wonder how many teams the GPAC may qualify for the national tournament. Should Concordia fall short of an automatic bid via a conference tournament title, it would be in good shape for an at-large berth. In the NAIA’s official metrics, the Bulldogs appear at No. 32 in the RPI and have played the nation’s 25th toughest schedule. Last season, the GPAC was rewarded with two auto qualifiers (Morningside and DWU) and four at-large selections (Briar Cliff, Concordia, Dordt and Northwestern).

·        The Bulldogs held the lead for the majority of their matchup with the Chargers (21-7, 17-5 GPAC), who rely heavily on their starting five. Both teams shot below 33 percent overall – 32.1 percent for Concordia and 29.5 percent for Briar Cliff. Star performer Konnor Sudmann made a major difference for the visitors as she racked up 27 points and poured in several clutch baskets during crunch time. The Bulldogs had only one double figure scorer: Abby Krieser, who notched 12 points on 4-for-9 shooting. It was a solid outing for Abby Heemstra, who notched nine points and eight rebounds. The Chargers emerged with a regular season sweep of Concordia.

·        The game at Dakota Wesleyan had plenty of statistical similarities as both teams also shot low percentages from the floor – 35.1 percent for the Bulldogs and 34.5 percent for the Tigers. In a tough environment, Concordia followed the lead of Kendal Brigham (team high 15 points) and stormed back from a 14-point deficit to take a one-point lead (53-52) with 4:25 left in the game. Unfortunately, the Bulldogs did not make another field goal the rest of the way and DWU ended the contest on a 9-1 run. The standout inside combo of Jada Campbell (22 points and 10 rebounds) and Matti Reiner (15 points and two blocks) played a pivotal role in the outcome. The Tigers (21-7, 15-7 GPAC) managed to split the regular season series and outrebounded Concordia, 43-32.

·        As part of the home finale against Briar Cliff, the Bulldogs honored their lone fourth-year senior, Taylor “Willy” Farrell. Part of the rotation immediately as a freshman when she arrived in the fall of 2019, Farrell has faced her share of adversity in the form of family tragedy and injuries. Said Olson of Farrell, “The three things that stand out most to me about Willy is her thoughtfulness, resiliency and fun personality ... Willy has had to endure a lot of things in her four years. I am so proud and impressed with how she has handled it all. Her faith has not wavered.” Farrell got the start on senior day and knocked down a trey. In her career, Farrell has totaled 582 points and 119 3-point field goals in 90 games.

·        Taysha Rushton leads the team in scoring with an average of 14.3 points per game (1,358 career points). The next three highest scoring averages on the team are remarkably similar: Brigham (9.9), Krieser (9.8) and Sadie Powell (9.7). Brigham has come off the bench for all 28 games this season, but she’s like having a sixth starter in terms of the minutes she’s played (24.0 per game). The Wahoo, Neb., native excels in all areas thanks to her athleticism, quickness and shooting ability. Brigham sports strong shooting percentages across the board: 45.1 from the floor, 42.2 from 3-point range and 76.4 from the foul line. As a team, the Bulldogs rank fourth nationally in free throw percentage (.771).

·        Last season, Concordia went on the road for the GPAC quarterfinals and fell at Dakota Wesleyan, 68-52. However, the program has had a history of success in the conference tournament under Olson’s direction. During Olson’s tenure, the Bulldogs have celebrated GPAC tournament championships in 2012, 2015, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020. In addition, Concordia was the conference tournament runner up in 2021. From 2017 leading up to the GPAC tourney title game of 2021, the program won 14-straight GPAC tournament contests. Over the previous 11 seasons, the Bulldogs have reached at least the GPAC semifinal round nine times. Prior to Olson’s hiring, Todd Voss steered Concordia to a GPAC postseason championship in 2005.

The opponents

Concordia alum Thad Sankey has enjoyed his best season as head coach of the Jimmies, a program he’s led since his hiring in the summer of 2018. Jamestown cracked the most recent NAIA coaches’ poll, landing at No. 19. Led by stars Hanna DeMars and Kia Tower, the Jimmies appear to have safely secured a national tournament bid no matter the results in the GPAC tournament. Among GPAC players, DeMars ranks first in rebounding (9.9) and second in scoring (18.0). Like the Bulldogs, Jamestown shoots its share of perimeter shots, ranking ninth nationally in 3-point field goals per game (8.9). The quarterfinal matchup will pair the GPAC’s two best teams in terms of field goal percentage defense – 38.1 percent allowed by Concordia and 38.2 percent allowed by the Jimmies. In addition, Jamestown has allowed only 60.7 points per game. During the regular season, the Jimmies defeated the Bulldogs by scores of 66-49 in Seward and 79-72 in North Dakota.

Probable starters

Concordia (18-10, 14-8 GPAC)
G – Abby Krieser (9.8)
G – Taysha Rushton (14.3)
G – Mackenzie Toomey (6.5)
F – Abby Heemstra (4.9)
F – Sadie Powell (9.7)

Head Coach: Drew Olson (441-131, 17th season at CUNE)

Jamestown (21-7, 16-6 GPAC)
G – Kate Busek (6.0)
G – Kia Tower (13.5)
F – Hanna DeMars (18.0)
F – Jailyn Martinson (4.6)
C – Audrey Rodakowski (8.4)

Head Coach: Thad Sankey (5th season)

2023 GPAC Women’s Basketball Tournament

Quarterfinals – Tuesday, Feb. 21
(8) Doane at (1) Dordt, 6 p.m.
(5) Northwestern at (4) Dakota Wesleyan, 6 p.m.
(6) Concordia at (3) Jamestown, 6 p.m.
(7) Morningside at (2) Briar Cliff, 7 p.m.

Semifinals – Saturday, Feb. 25
1/8 winner vs. 4/5 winner, time TBA
2/7 winner vs. 3/6 winner, time TBA

Championship – Tuesday, Feb. 28
Highest remaining seed hosts, time TBA