2024 GPAC WBB Semifinal Preview: Concordia vs. Briar Cliff

By Chase Benton on Feb. 29, 2024 in Women's Basketball

SEWARD, Neb. – The last four teams stand in conference post-season play, and the 2nd-seeded Concordia Women’s Basketball team will host the 3rd-seeded Briar Cliff on Saturday afternoon (Mar. 2) in one of two GPAC semifinal games. The two teams split in the regular season, both taking wins at home but the Chargers come in on a four game win streak. The Bulldogs handled what seemed to be an inferior Morningside opponent, 86-65, using 14 treys to skate past the Mustangs in Friedrich Arena.

This Week

GPAC Semifinals – Saturday, Mar. 2 vs. Briar Cliff (21-8, 15-7 GPAC), 3 p.m.
--Max Country | Live Webcast | Live Stats | Location: Friedrich Arena (Seward, Neb.)

GPAC Finals – Tuesday, March 5 (if Concordia wins on Saturday)

--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

·       Three of the top seeds remain in the conference tournament, as No. 1 Dordt, No. 2 Concordia, and No. 3 Briar Cliff all seized home wins in the GPAC playoffs. No. 4 Northwestern had the tiebreaker to host No. 5 Dakota Wesleyan but fell to the Tigers in an 80-68 in Bultman Center. The Chargers took care of No. 6 Jamestown with a double digit (85-73) win. The Defenders clamped on the No. 8 seed Doane and completed an 85-75 victory to host the other Tigers on Saturday in DeWitt Gymnasium.

·       Entering their first post-season game, you never know what to expect from teams early in a win or go home situation. With the Bulldogs having a wealth of experience, they showed an aggressiveness on the offensive side of the floor that hasn’t been seen in Friedrich Arena through the regular season. Concordia had gained a 15-point lead at halftime, on the back of 10-point second quarter by Taysha Rushton. The Midland, Texas, native finished with 27 but Sadie Powell (14), Kendal Brigham (12) and Kristin Vieselmeyer (10) ended with double figures. Vieselmeyer was one of the noticeable differences as the forward took over the low block at certain points of the game. It shows what happens in college playoff basketball, doesn’t just take place at the NCAA level but in the NAIA as well.

·       Once Concordia gets to the GPAC tournament stage, the small town college seems to glory 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 flourished in post-season 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 13.0 steals and forces 21.4 turnovers a contest. With a defensive efficiency rating of 0.826, 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 (1.6 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 5th in the Massey Ratings, which all leads to them being a lock for a national tournament berth.


Concordia Projected Starting Five
G – Mackenzie Toomey, 5-9 (6.7)
G – Taysha Rushton, 5-5 (15.2)
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 (17th season at Concordia)

The opponent

The Chargers have won eight out of their last nine contests coming into Seward and have totaled a 21-8 overall record. They are the defending GPAC tournament champions and triumphed over Dordt (86-69) in the final game. Briar Cliff averages 81.9 points per game, with almost all the starting five in double digits. Konnor Sudmann (14.2) and Mallie McNair (13.9) lead the team in points per contest and Payton Slaughter collects a team high 6.4 rebounds per 40 minutes. With a 74-66 loss on Dec. 9, the Bulldogs repaid the favor on Jan. 20 with a 68-58 win over the visitors. Finishing fourth in the season and ranked 13th in the Massey Ratings, Briar Cliff should be getting an NAIA national tournament bid in the final playoff of the year.

Briar Cliff Projected Starting Five
G – Payton Slaughter, 5-6 (9.8)
G – Konnor Sudmann, 5-11 (14.2)
G – Mallie McNair, 5-8 (13.9)
G – Kennedy Benne, 5-8 (12.7)
C – Rachel Langel, 6-0 (9.1)

Head Coach: Brian Ortmeier (2nd season at Briar Cliff)

2024 GPAC Women’s Basketball Tournament

Quarterfinals – Wednesday, Feb. 28

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

Semifinals – Saturday, March 2

(5) Dakota Wesleyan at (1) Dordt, 3 p.m.
(3) Briar Cliff vs. (2) Concordia, 3 p.m.

Championship - Tuesday, March 5

Highest remaining seed hosts, time TBA