‘Connie’ goes crazy; Bulldogs knock off No. 3 Morningside in OT

By Taylor Mueller, Sports Information Assistant

SEWARD, Neb. – If Kristen Conahan was feeling any nerves when she stepped on the court to begin overtime, she sure didn’t show it.

“I started knocking down some shots, my confidence grew and I just kept shooting,” Conahan said.

“She’s phenomenal,” head coach Drew Olson said of Conahan, who battled through an injury in the early part of the season.

The 5-foot-5 senior from Omaha had ice water flowing though her veins, drilling three consecutive 3-pointers in the extended time to bury the visiting third-ranked Mustangs in a battle of top-five teams. She was spotting up from all over, leaving the Mustang defenders scrambling to put a hand in her face.

“A few times I was surprised,” Conahan said of her wide open looks. “I figured they’d be on me a little more.”

Conahan’s 11 points in the last five minutes helped the Bulldogs to their first conference win and their third victory over a top 25 ranked team this season, improving their record to 5-1, 1-0 GPAC.

“Our kids set the tone defensively and we knocked down some big shots,” head coach Drew Olson said.

The Bulldogs set the tone in the first half, gaining leads in the double digits numerous times throughout the first 20 minutes with intensity and physicality that was unmatched by the Mustangs. Concordia was able to find its stride, especially in transition thanks in large part to finds from junior guard Bailey Morris who led the team with five assists at the intermission. Junior Jericca Pearson continued her standout hustle play with seven boards in the first half. Concordia’s excellent free throw shooting (14-16) also contributed to their 43-35 lead at the break.

The Mustangs came out with a chip on their shoulder in the second half, however, and had the Bulldogs on their heels early on.

“I don’t know if it was mental fatigue or just loss of focus,” Olson said. “We turned the ball over like three or four straight times. But you can give a lot of credit to our kids and their composure.”

The Bulldogs were able to hang on to a single-digit lead through the second half, until the 5:22 mark when Morningside took their first lead of the night off two made free throws. Just 10 seconds later, another Mustang bucket had the Bulldogs down by three. Conahan answered shortly thereafter with a 3- point bucket to even things up at 66 apiece. Both teams traded baskets until the 1:48 mark after which they would remain deadlocked at 73.  

Things got interesting with 23 seconds left in the game when Concordia, taking the ball out underneath their own hoop, turned it over into the hands of Morningside who called for time out to set up their final play.

“We got in a little bit of a panic,” Olson said. “We were able to make up for a (turnover) on the defensive end and stay in the game.”

As the clock winded down from 16 seconds and Concordia fans on their feet, it took two missed shots, an offensive rebound by the Mustangs and a scramble for the ball that ended up in the hands of Pearson to give the Bulldog faithful a chance to breathe a sigh of relief as the final buzzer sounded to send the game into extra time.

Morningside scored on a layup to take a quick two point lead to open the overtime. However, the Bulldog defense clamped down, allowing just seven Mustang points while they scored 17 points of their own to close out the game and claiming the victory 90-82 as well as their fifth straight over Morningside.

Olson expressed his pleasure with the way his team handled the game, and complimented Morningside on their style of play.

“I thought they stuck to the game plan really well,” Olson said. “Morningside was a great team. They were able to do some nice things inside that hurt us. Morningside is a great defensive team. They’re big, long and athletic.”   

As the game progressed, it became evident that the strong junior class as well as Conahan would be seeing the most minutes, placing more dependability on the shoulders of the veterans. The increased amount of playing time didn’t bother Conahan.

“It’s fine. It’s something we can all handle,” Conahan said. “We know how we play and once we’re defensively sound, we play really well together.”

It was Conahan’s night, as her 28 points led all scorers for the game. Pearson and Junior Tracy Peitz recorded double-doubles apiece with 16 points and 11 rebounds for Pearson and 20 points and 11 boards for Peitz. Morris continued to drop dimes throughout the night, finishing with a game-high 13 assists.

The Bulldogs will be back in action on Nov. 23 when they hit the road to take on Briar Cliff University at 2 p.m.

“They’re a similar team to Morningside,” Conahan said. “We’ll be getting after it in practice this week. Our conference is tough. We just want to come out one game at a time, just work hard and come out strong.”