Clutch baskets and team defense electrify Bulldogs past Chargers

By Chase Benton on Mar. 2, 2024 in Women's Basketball

SEWARD, Neb. – After the Bulldogs totaled an 18-point lead in the third, Briar Cliff whittled the advantage down to four points to make the tension rise in Friedrich Arena. Concordia came in clutch, bowing their back with a 9-0 run to end the 87-74 conference tournament semifinal victorious. Multiple players were instrumental in moving on to the GPAC Final, including Rushton (20 pts), Kendal Brigham (17), Powell (12) and Heemstra (12).

With the win, the team earns an automatic bid and is 16th national tournament under Head Coach Drew Olson. The No. 7 Dawgs climb yet another rung to a 25-5 overall record and it becomes the 11 out of the last 18 seasons that they have reached 25 wins. Olson commented on the resiliency of this team and individuals stepping up in the battle.

“The toughness this team continues to show is awesome. Briar Cliff is a really good team playing good basketball and we found a way. A whole team effort. We had so many different people step up. It was a great basketball game. It was so fun. We got a lot of good shooters, we would spread people out and it allows us to drive and kick. Our posts are doing a good job. Abby (Heemstra) and Kristin (Vieselmeyer) had really good games. Defensively, we did a good enough job to win the game.”

Only up by two possessions, Abby Heemstra buried a layup via Abby Krieser. After a big empty possession by the visitors, Taysha Rushton seized all hope from the Chargers with a dagger three, pushing the lead to nine with barely over a minute to go before the final. The Midland, Texas native had six of the nine-point scoring drive (free throws), three steals, and was one rebound shy (9) of a double double.

Abby Krieser had nine points, seven assists and rebounds, making her presence known on every part of the floor. The Lincoln North Star product captured her second best rebound performance and served the most dishes she has all season.

Krieser said, “We were all driving hard into the lane and getting kick out threes. We all had to be really aggressive because they are really good defenders. Going into the game, I knew I needed to rebound the ball because they would crash the boards hard and just get my teammates open with screens and passes.”

CUNE would hit 13 from beyond the arc, besting Briar Cliff(10) by three. The Bulldogs made the most of their visits to the charity stripe, dropping 18, 10 more than the Chargers. The list could go on for individual performances as Powell added seven rebounds and Heemstra added five. Brigham collected three steals and her second start of the year.

Briar Cliff won’t have seen the end of their season, as they should receive an at-large bid from the NAIA national tournament selection committee. The Chargers shot 40.6 percent (28-of-69) from the field and were outrebounded 42-34. The visitors were led by Konor Sudmann (26), Kennedy Benne (20) and Mallie McNair (10), all in double figures.

Concordia will travel to face No. 2 Dordt for the GPAC Tournament Final on Tuesday (Mar. 5). The Defenders will host the Bulldogs in DeWitt Gymnasium and tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. CT. The visitors have gone winless against the regular season conference champions but if the next one is like the previous two, you don’t want to miss it.

Coach Olson, “We are excited about it. We have been working really hard. Hopefully, we play well and it is a great game. We are pretty pumped.”