Defensive grinder gutted out by Chargers

By Jacob Knabel on Feb. 15, 2023 in Women's Basketball

SEWARD, Neb. – Two of the GPAC’s best defensive teams played like it on Wednesday (Feb. 15). The two conference foes shot south of 33 percent in a GPAC grinder that went down to the wire. A 27-point outing from Konnor Sudmann allowed 23rd-ranked Briar Cliff to gut it out, 56-51, over the Concordia University Women’s Basketball team. The Bulldogs led by as many as seven points in the second half.

Head Coach Drew Olson’s squad fell for just the fourth time in 15 home games this season. With one regular season contest left on the slate, Concordia stands at 18-9 overall (14-7 GPAC).

“That’s exactly how I thought it was going to go,” Olson said of the defensive nature of the game. “I thought we had a really good defensive game plan to hold them. I knew they were a great defensive team and it was going to be a struggle to score at times. It was going to be a grind to the end. It was a great game.”

Led by the hot shooting of Taysha Rushton, the Bulldogs had been lighting up the scoreboard in recent outings. The rugged nature of this matchup just wasn’t going to allow for such free-flowing offensive action. Concordia threatened to pull away when its 8-0 run supplied a 36-29 lead midway through the third quarter. During which, Abby Krieser got loose for two transition buckets. The Chargers regrouped, went on a 7-0 run to tie it and it was a white knuckler the rest of the way.

The Briar Cliff star Sudmann was immune to the shooting struggles that plagued just about everyone else. With her team trailing 46-45, Sudmann drained a trey at the 3:25 mark of the fourth quarter. She then made clutch jumpers at the 2:44 and 0:43 marks to help sink the Bulldogs. Down 54-51 in the last 20 seconds, Concordia’s set play after a timeout gave Kendal Brigham a shot at a potential game-tying trey that rimmed out.

It was a matter of a play here and there that made the difference. The Bulldogs fell despite allowing the Chargers (20-7, 16-5 GPAC) to shoot only 29.5 percent (18-for-61) from the floor. Concordia was only slightly better at 32.1 percent (17-for-53) and had to overcome an early rash of turnovers and fouls. Krieser led the attack offensively with 12 points to go with two steals. Abby Heemstra turned in a solid performance that included nine points and eight rebounds.

Rushton was held scoreless in the first half before she came alive with nine tallies after the break. Six points apiece were contributed by Brigham, Sadie Powell and Kristin Vieselmeyer. In honor of senior day, Olson inserted senior Taylor Farrell and super senior Mackenzie Koepke into the starting lineup. Farrell drained the first Bulldog bucket from 3-point range. Farrell played an instrumental role in the trip to the NAIA national quarterfinals in 2021.

Briar Cliff earned a regular season sweep of Concordia. Sudmann (10-for-21 from the floor) was the lone Charger in double figures. Gritty post player Madelyn Deitchler notched seven points and a game high 13 rebounds. Payton Slaugher added nine points as she reached a career milestone of more than 1,000 points. Briar Cliff won the rebounding battle, 44-39, and was plus-three in turnover margin.

The Bulldogs will finish off the regular season on Saturday with a trip to the Corn Palace, home to Dakota Wesleyan (20-7, 14-7 GPAC). Tipoff in Mitchell, S.D., is set for 2 p.m. CT. Concordia eked out a 59-58 win over the Tigers in the meeting that took place in Seward on Jan. 7. The matchup will have standings implications as DWU lies in a tie for fourth place with Concordia and Northwestern.