Bulldogs survive scare, pull away late from Broncos

By Jacob Knabel on Dec. 6, 2017 in Women's Basketball

SEWARD, Neb. – The second-ranked Concordia University women’s basketball team found itself in a dogfight like it hadn’t yet seen this season when playing inside friendly Walz Arena. Despite relinquishing the first nine points of Wednesday’s (Dec. 6) rivalry contest with No. 19 Hastings, the Bulldogs withstood a spirited effort from the visitors and won, 77-65.

The home win streak lives on having now grown to 27. Twelfth-year head coach Drew Olson’s squad stayed perfect at 10-0 overall and at 6-0 in conference play. During some tense moments, that unblemished mark appeared in jeopardy.

“I just felt like we settled down a little bit, got a little bit tougher,” Olson said. “They did a great job keeping us out of rhythm. I felt like we were turning the ball over too much and giving them too many offensive rebounds. That allowed them to get the lead. Once we stopped doing those things, good things started to happen for us.”

There are teams that crumble right from the opening tip while consumed by the Walz walls, but the Broncos (8-2, 3-2 GPAC) brought the fight to Concordia. Led by point guard Shandra Farmer, Hastings hit the Bulldogs with some in-your-face defense of their own. Concordia went just 3-for-19 from the floor in the opening quarter and stared down an unfamiliar 20-8 deficit.

The Bulldogs happen to feature a playmaking guard of its own in freshman Taylor Cockerill, whose lightning quick drives to the bucket were much needed to break down one of the nation’s toughest defensive teams. Not only that, many of the late hustle plays seemed to go Concordia’s way. Colby Duvel made the crowd come alive with a blocked shot in transition and then a 3-point play off a put back.

“We had to start playing like ourselves and win the hustle plays,” Cockerill said. “We just had to work together as a team.”

It took a while, but the Bulldogs eventually gained control. The game’s key sequence came late in the third quarter when sophomore Philly Lammers’ tough scoring inside initiated an 8-0 run that turned a two-point deficit into a 57-51 lead. Hastings nearly came all the way back, trailing 64-63, before Concordia rattled off the next six points. With under 30 seconds remaining, Dani Hoppes neglected to wait for a Bronco foul and instead drained a dagger of a trey from the left corner.

Cockerill finished with a game high 18 points while playing 27 minutes off the bench. Lammers (16 points, nine rebounds) just missed a double-double before fouling out in the fourth quarter. Quinn Wragge (13 points, seven rebounds) and Hoppes (10) also reached double figures in scoring.

Farmer was nearly pesky enough to lift her side to a road upset. She put up 17 points and burned the Bulldogs with four steals. Teammates Mackenzie Willicott (12) and Holly Hild (11) joined Farmer in double figures. Hastings shot 41.4 percent compared to 40.6 percent shooting by Concordia, one of its lowest percentages all season.

“Farmer is a fantastic on-the-ball defender,” Olson said. “They did a great job denying us at times. We just have to do a better job at getting open, handling pressure and being tougher mentally. It’s definitely something we’ll learn from and get better from.”

The Bulldogs will now have eight-consecutive days without a game before returning to action with a road trip to Northwestern (7-4, 4-1 GPAC) on Friday, Dec. 15. Tipoff from Orange City, Iowa is set for 6 p.m. CT. Concordia has won each of the last four meetings with the Red Raiders with three of those matchups coming last season.