Wednesday night’s top 10 matchup between Concordia University and Briar Cliff University certainly lived up to expectations. In the end, #7 Concordia picked up a thrilling 89-87 overtime win over #2 Briar Cliff at the Walz Human Performance Complex. The Bulldogs improved to 9-1 overall and 4-1 in conference play with the victory. Briar Cliff dropped to 9-2 overall and 4-1 in conference play.
Concordia struck the first blow with a quick 9-3 run to open the game. Briar Cliff quickly answered with a 14-1 run to lead 17-10 with just under 12 minutes to play in the half. There were multiple ties and lead changes down the stretch in the first half. A 3-pointer by Concordia’s Kristen Conahan (Omaha, Neb.) tied the score at 38-38 heading into halftime. There were seven total lead changes in the first half of play. Both teams struggled with turnovers (BCU – 15, and CU - 14). Amber Kistler (Minatare, Neb.) scored 12 points to pace the Bulldogs, while Kelsey Evans knocked down five 3-pointers to score 15 first half points for the visiting Chargers.
Briar Cliff looked to pull away midway through the second half. The Chargers led by as many as 13 (75-62) with six minutes to play, but as has been the case lately, Concordia refused to go away. The Bulldogs went on an 11-1 run to pull within three (76-73) on a layup by Lori Laboda (Parker, Colo.) with just over two minutes remaining in the contest.
A layup by Summer Gordon pushed the BCU lead back to five (78-73) with just 58 seconds left in regulation. However, four straight points by Conahan trimmed the BCU lead to one at 78-77 with less than a half minute remaining. Megan Salcedo knocked down two clutch free throws to push Briar Cliff’s lead back to three (80-77) with 25 seconds left to play. On Concordia’s next possession, Laboda connected on a 3-pointer from the corner to tie the score at 80-80 to force the game into overtime.
The Chargers scored the opening two points of the overtime period on a layup by Ashley Zobel. Conahan came right back with a 3-pointer to give Concordia the 83-82 advantage. A made free throw by Katie Rich (Tilden, Neb.) pushed the Concordia lead to two at 84-82, but Kristen Twait connected on 1-of-2 free throws to pull BCU back within one at 84-83. The teams then traded baskets. Conahan hit a runner to make the score 86-83, but Twait answered with a layup to again cut the lead to one at 86-85 with two minutes remaining.
Following a Bulldog miss, BCU scored a bucket in transition to reclaim the lead at 87-86. Conahan again responded with a layup to put Concordia back on top with a minute to play. On BCU’s next possession, Zobel missed a 3-pointer. Concordia had an opportunity to put the game away, but Kistler had a shot blocked to give the ball back to the Chargers with time winding down. Twait missed a jumper, and Concordia secured the rebound with less than 10 seconds remaining.
Kistler was fouled and made 1-of-2 free throws to give the Bulldogs the 89-87 lead. BCU had one final opportunity to tie or win, but a steal by Bailey Morris (Roseland, Neb.) in the closing seconds secured the victory for Concordia.
“This win feels very good,” remarked Bulldog head coach Drew Olson. “They’re a great team, and every night is such a challenge in this conference. We really just kept our composure, and our team continues to grow up each and every day. We kept fighting tonight, and we played very hard.”
The Bulldogs were led by the combination of Laboda and Conahan. Each scored 23 points, and Laboda added 13 boards for a huge double-double. Conahan struggled from the field overall (8-of-23 and just 3-of-15 from deep) but came up with huge buckets down the stretch for the Bulldogs. After the game, Laboda talked about the win.
“We really came together as a team tonight,” remarked Laboda. “We learned some things from the Morningside game. A win like this shows how good we can be, and this is a real confidence boost for us. Individually, I had a few tough games lately. Tonight was just what I needed. I just did what I could to help the team.”
Concordia was 28-of-79 from the field for 35.4 percent compared to 33-of-63 (52.4 percent) for Briar Cliff. Rebounding and second chance points were huge for the Bulldogs in the win. Concordia held a 51-41 rebounding advantage, and the Bulldogs used 23 offensive rebounds to score 22 second chance points in the win. Laboda grabbed seven offensive boards by herself on the night. Morris scored 12 points and added seven assists. Kistler finished with 13 points and five steals, while Rich delivered 10 points and seven rebounds off the bench for the Bulldogs.
Evans and Stewart each scored 18 for Briar Cliff. Mattie Murren and Summer Gordon each added 15 for the Chargers.
Concordia travels to Dakota Wesleyan on Saturday for a 6 p.m. matchup against the Tigers.