SIOUX CITY, Iowa – An incredible ride through the conference season continued on Saturday afternoon for the second-ranked Concordia University women’s basketball team. It may not have been their most crisp performance of the season, but when the day culminated, the Bulldogs had clinched the outright GPAC title courtesy of a 90-70 win at Briar Cliff (14-14, 8-10 GPAC).
Eleventh-year head coach Drew Olson’s program has now captured three GPAC regular-season titles in the past six years. Concordia moved its win streak to 26 and stands at 26-1 overall and 17-0 in conference play heading into the regular season’s final three games.
Following the win, President Brian Friedrich entered the locker room and surprised the team with the GPAC championship trophy.
“That was awesome. Our kids loved it,” Olson said. “The support that we get from President Friedrich is incredible. For our kids to see that big, gold trophy – that’s pretty cool. It’s special.”
Concordia has made it a habit lately of having to shake itself out of an early lull. An energized Briar Cliff squad celebrating its senior day, raced out to a 9-0 advantage before sophomore Quinn Wragge came to the rescue. She enjoyed a monster game (17 points, 11 rebounds) that helped the Bulldogs overcome 39 turnovers in mistake-riddled affair. There were a combined 21 turnovers in the first quarter alone.
“It was just kind of a bad, sluggish start,” Olson said. “They did a great job of pressuring us. We probably should be more prepared for that, but in the second half I thought our kids really settled in and took care of the ball a lot better. They just knocked down shots. I thought our aggressiveness finally started to come through.”
As has been the case all year long, Concordia proved to have too much talent and too much depth. Feeding off their defensive tenacity, the Bulldogs went on an 18-5 run that started late in the third quarter and spilled into the fourth quarter. At that point, it was over. Included in that spurt was a beautifully executed runout that went from Mary Janovich to Dani Andersen to Quinn Wragge for a hoop and a foul.
Janovich backed Wragge with a productive offensive outing of her own. The ultra-efficient guard from Gretna made 6-of-8 shots from the floor and dished out three assists while equaling Wragge’s team high 17 points. Off the bench, Erin Vieselmeyer supplied solid minutes again, registering nine points and five rebounds. Aubri Bro chipped eight points as one of nine Bulldogs with five or more points.
No team in the GPAC is going to enjoy playing against Briar Cliff freshman Kailey Burke over the next few seasons. The Hinton, Iowa, native totaled 16 of her 21 points in the first half. But Burke and her teammates failed to take advantage of the turnovers and shot only 35.0 percent from the floor. On the other hand, Concordia shot 57.7 percent and drained 8-of-15 shots from the perimeter over the final 20 minutes.
Now the conference race is over.
“It was just really cool. We had no idea,” Wragge said of the postgame trophy presentation. “It was a surprise and it was awesome. It felt really good.”
Olson also led Concordia to an outright GPAC regular-season title in 2011-12 and then a share of the league championship in 2013-14. The 2011-12 and 2014-15 squads also seized conference tournament crowns.
The Bulldogs are in the midst of grueling weekend of conference play. In a makeup contest, Concordia will be at No. 12 Dakota Wesleyan (22-4, 13-4 GPAC) at 2 p.m. CT on Sunday. The two conference powers met inside Walz Arena on Dec. 3 when the Bulldogs held off the Tigers, 85-82, in a classic battle that came down the final possession.