2024 GPAC WBB Final Preview: No. 7 Concordia at No. 2 Dordt

By Chase Benton on Mar. 3, 2024 in Women's Basketball

SEWARD, Neb. – There is no feeling like March basketball. The upcoming GPAC Tournament Championship includes two top-10 teams in the country, as the No. 7 Concordia Women’s Basketball team is set to brawl against No. 2 Dordt on Tuesday night (March 5). With the Defenders having a claim staked deep into the 1st seed, the Bulldogs will have to travel to Sioux Center, Iowa, before taking the floor inside Dewitt Gymnasium for the second time this year. Briar Cliff tried to derail Concordia’s hopes of making the championship, but Head Coach Drew Olson’s squad had ice in its veins, swatting away the visitor's comeback in the final minutes, 87-74.

GPAC Finals – Tuesday, March 5 at No. 2 Dordt (GPAC), 7 p.m.
--Max Country | Live Webcast | Live Stats | Location: DeWitt Gymnasium

--Admission: $10 for adults; $3 for students (K-College); GPAC students with ID are admitted free; season passes are not allowed (NAIA issued passes are allowed).

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By the numbers

·       No lead is safe in playoff basketball, even for the Bulldogs who were up 18 midway through the third quarter. Fast forward to three and a half minutes left in the game and the Chargers made their way back to only a four-point deficit. Abby Heemstra netted a massive jumper and Taysha Rushton called game with a step back jumper for three. The Midland, Texas, native was instrumental with 20 points and nine rebounds but make no mistake, every effort by every player was needed to move on to the finals. Concordia would finish the game with a 9-0 run and the others in double digits were Kendal Brigham (17), Sadie Powell (12) and Heemstra (12). Abby Krieser was destructive to the opponent in every way, doing the dirty work for nine points, seven rebounds and seven assists. With an injury from the last game, Mackenzie Toomey was unavailable in the semifinal.

·       With the Bulldogs defeating Briar Cliff, the only matchup remaining from the second round was Dordt versus fourth-seeded Dakota Wesleyan. Similar to the ending in Seward, the Defenders went on a shutout run (11-0) to end the game and move on to the final after a 69-59 win. The home team shot 44 percent (22-for-50) from the field and 4-of-13 from three. Dordt did what it always tries to do, outrebounding the Tigers 39-27, while forcing 17 turnovers by the defense. Even more astonishingly, the team hit 21-for-23 from the charity stripe as the visitors only collected six.

·       Once Concordia gets to the GPAC tournament stage, the small town college seems to flourish under the lights as the conference watches for one to become victorious. With seven tournament titles since the GPAC began in the 2000-01 season, the Bulldogs have succeeded in postseason play under Coach Drew Olson, who has six titles under his belt (one under Todd Voss). From the 2016-17 campaign to 2019-20, Concordia won four straight and followed with a runner up finish the following year. What might be most impressive is they have qualified every year since the conference began.

·       A defense that has been ranked in the top-10 all season (NAIA) and No. 1 in the conference will look to continue its dominance over common foes. Like a pack of wild dogs, Concordia ravages foes to the tune of 12.8 steals and forces 21.0 turnovers a contest. With a defensive efficiency rating of 0.831, the Bulldogs are second in the conference in points allowed per 100 possessions. The defensive makeup of this team could scare Scooby and Shaggy out of their boots. The lead ball hawks are cat-quick guards Toomey (2.3 SPG), Rushton (2.0) and Brigham (1.6). Abby Krieser (1.5 SPG) defends her opponents like an inescapable enclosing stonewall and Powell (1.7) uses her length to squeeze the rock out of her opponents' hands and into her own. 

·       In the latest ARC ratings (Feb. 17), CUNE is ranked No. 2 in the North-Central region, under Dordt, and ranks 11th in the RPI at 0.617 all while having the 30th ranked strength of schedule. The Dawgs rank fifth in the Massey Ratings with Dordt at No. 2. The Massey ranking matchups, by sides of the ball, have Concordia at sixth in offense and 19th in defense. For the Defenders, they are fourth in offense and 12th in defense.

Concordia Projected Starting Five
G – Mackenzie Toomey, 5-9 (6.7)
G – Taysha Rushton, 5-5 (15.4)
G – Abby Krieser, 5-8 (8.9)
F – Sadie Powell, 6-0 (11.8)
F – Kristin Vieselmeyer, 6-1 (5.6)

Head Coach: Drew Olson (18th season at Concordia)

The opponent

The Defenders have only seen one loss to an NAIA opponent and come into the game with a 28-2 overall record. The regular season GPAC champions won by 10 in both conference tournament games, defeating Doane (85-75) and Dakota Wesleyan. Dordt averages 83.8 points per game, with almost all the starting five in double digits. Gracie Schoonhoven (12.2) and Bailey Beckman (12.0) lead the team in points per contest and Janie Schoonhoven collects a team high 8.5 rebounds per 40 minutes. The first two meetings the Defenders got the better of the Bulldogs on Feb. 5 (84-79) and Feb. 17 (81-78). With these two teams getting closer to the national tournament, aggressiveness and drive ramp up every time they get one more chance to play each another.

Dordt Projected Starting Five
G – Macy Sievers, 5-8 (11.7)
G – Bailey Beckman, 5-3 (12.0)
G – Faith Van Holland, 5-7 (5.6)
F – Karly Gustafson, 6-0 (11.8)
F – Janie Schoonhoven, 5-10 (10.4)

Head Coach: Bill Harmsen (5th season at Dordt)

2024 GPAC Women’s Basketball Tournament

Quarterfinals – Wednesday, Feb. 28
(1) Dordt def. (8) Doane, 85-75
(5) Dakota Wesleyan def. (4) Northwestern, 80-68
(3) Briar Cliff def. (6) Jamestown, 85-73
(2) Concordia def. (7) Morningside, 86-65

Semifinals – Saturday, March 2
(1) Dordt def. (5) Dakota Wesleyan, 69-59
(2) Concordia def. (3) Briar Cliff, 87-74

Championship - Tuesday, March 5
(2) Concordia at (1) Dordt, 7 p.m.