SEWARD, Neb. – The stage is set for the second-ranked Concordia University women’s basketball team to host the GPAC tournament championship game for the second time in six years. In Saturday’s conference semifinal, the Bulldogs relentlessly pestered visiting Northwestern on their way to an 88-51 win inside Walz Arena.
The victory established another benchmark in a special season for 11th-year head coach Drew Olson’s squad. At 30-2 overall, the Bulldogs have reached the 30-win plateau for the third time under Olson and for the fifth time in program history.
It was defense that paved the way again for Concordia, which forced 34 turnovers and held the Red Raiders to 26.9 percent shooting (14-for-52).
“I thought our kids had really good focus on who their different players were, whether they were a driver or a shooter,” Olson said. “We did an awesome job keeping the ball out of the lane. Overall it was just an incredible defensive performance for our kids to be able to stay that focused throughout the game.”
The Red Raiders were just the latest team to get Lammer’ed. Freshman Philly Lammers threw out a line of 18 points, five rebounds, five blocks and three steals. Though a post player, Lammers plays an integral role in Concordia’s killer press, which helped instigate 15 first quarter Northwestern turnovers on Saturday.
The Red Raiders got within seven points late in the second quarter before the game got out of hand. Up 30-23, Concordia then closed the first half on an 8-2 run. It claimed its first 20-point lead of the afternoon at the 3:32 mark of the third quarter when Syndey Feller splashed in a trey that came after her own steal.
The Bulldogs are a team on repeat. They turn you over and then go on the attack.
“We just kept our focus and intensity level up,” Lammers said. “We go on every play and don’t take any off. We always go for the ball and are in their face all the time.”
It took Northwestern nearly seven-and-a-half minutes to finally drop in its first field goal of the game. At one point midway through the second quarter, Lammers had more blocked shots than the Red Raiders had made field goals. Making matters worse for Northwestern, it had to play again without starting post Darbi Gustafson and several key players struggled. Paige Danner went 1-for-13 from the floor and had nine turnovers. Kassidy De Jong made only 4-of-14 shots and gave it away seven times.
On the other side, Dani Andersen and Brenleigh Daum stayed white hot. Andersen (12 points) made 3-of-7 shots from beyond the arc and Daum (12 points) dropped home 3-of-6 attempts from long distance. Off the bench, Erin Vieselmeyer chipped in 12 points and three rebounds in eight minutes of action. As a team, Concordia shot 45.6 percent (31-for-68) for the game and 52.9 percent in the second half.
Now the Bulldogs have earned the right to host the conference championship game for the first time since 2012, when they celebrated a 73-66 win over Morningside.
“It’s pretty cool. Our kids obviously feel a lot more comfortable here,” Olson said. “We’re hoping for a huge turnout. Hopefully our student body really shows up and goes crazy like the last time we hosted.”
The Bulldogs will vie for their fourth GPAC tournament title in program history when the action gets underway at 7 p.m. CT on Tuesday. The conference championship game will match Concordia against either ninth-ranked Dakota Wesleyan (25-5), the only GPAC team to defeat the Bulldogs this season, or Doane (16-15). In this season’s first meeting, the Bulldogs held off Dakota Wesleyan, 85-82, in Seward on Dec. 3. Concordia won both regular-season games over Doane.