SIOUX CENTER, Iowa – Two games less than 10 days apart between the same two teams featured highly contrasting stress levels. The 14th-ranked Concordia University women’s basketball team couldn’t breathe easy until a pair of Mary Janovich free throws in the closing seconds provided the final spread. The Bulldogs eked out a 68-64 win in Sioux Center, Iowa, on Friday evening.
Tenth-year head coach Drew Olson’s squad extended its win streak to four while improving to 8-3 overall and 5-3 in conference action.
“I knew it was going to be a much different game, a much tougher game,” said Olson, whose team pummeled Dordt, 86-54, in Seward on Dec. 9. “We didn’t shoot well in the first half. They played really well and I could tell that our kids were still a little bit mentally and emotionally drained from finals week.
“I knew it was going to be a little bit more of a struggle but I also felt really confident that our kids have built that toughness and that they would be confident to win that game.”
After trailing for the lion’s share of the first three quarters, Concordia exerted control in the final stanza courtesy of the leadership of senior Becky Mueller and junior Shelby Quinn. Both made crucial shots up against a Defender team that displayed admirable feistiness. Mueller knocked down three of her four treys in the second half, including a key one in the fourth quarter that pushed a two-point advantage to five with 3:19 left.
Dordt (4-10, 1-7 GPAC) kept coming. The Defenders climbed back within one point (63-62) by sinking four-straight free throws. Quinn followed with a difficult baseline jumper. Concordia then converted on 3-of-4 free throws in the final 20 seconds to avoid the upset.
Behind star senior Mycah Hulst, Dordt dominated the first quarter. Hulst put up 10 points and six rebounds in the opening 10 minutes as the Defenders built a lead as large as 10 while outrebounding Concordia, 17-6. Hulst finished with a line of 20 points, 25 rebounds and four blocks.
Mueller (team high 14 points) and company staved off Dordt despite shooting 36.9 percent (24-for-65) from the floor and getting outnumbered, 51-36, on the boards. The Bulldogs made up for it in part by committing only seven turnovers.
The return to form of Mueller, a second team all-conference selection last season, also didn’t hurt.
“It was definitely a confidence booster,” Mueller said. “Last week was a little rough. It was good to go out today and hit some shots and see Shelby hit some shots, too. It was just really good for our team to build confidence.”
Freshman Maddie Egr also played a key role for Olson’s squad. She scored on back-to-back possessions midway through the fourth quarter and finished with seven points and six rebounds in 15 minutes of action. Fellow rookie Quinn Wragge added nine points, four rebounds and three steals.
Dordt pushed Concordia to the brink despite playing without leading scorer Alissa Pollema, who sat out with an injury. Abby Chapman and Kim Kroeze added a dozen points apiece. The Defenders’ lone conference win came by a 64-53 score over Northwestern.
The Bulldogs will break for the Christmas holiday before returning to action Dec. 29-30 when they travel to California to take on Simpson University (2-8) and Pacific Union College (0-11). Concordia is 3-0 in nonconference play this season.