Dominant fourth quarter staves off upset bid in Hastings

By Jacob Knabel on Jan. 17, 2024 in Women's Basketball

HASTINGS, Neb. – The national rankings didn’t seem to matter on this mid-January night pitting in-state rivals against each other. A Hastings squad that had not yet lost in the new year hit more than 50 percent of its first-half shots and made the eighth-ranked Concordia University Women’s Basketball team sweat to the finish line inside Lynn Farrell Arena on Wednesday (Jan. 17). The Bulldogs ultimately kicked it into gear in time to claim a 70-57 victory. Reigning GPAC Player of the Week Kendal Brigham starred while stamping out the upset bid.

Head Coach Drew Olson’s squad extended its win streak to six while pushing its overall mark to 13-2 (9-2 GPAC).

“It was a gutsy win,” Olson said. “We were not at our best, but I think that’s a really good sign when you still find a way to win, especially on the road. I’m really proud of our group. The second half was a lot better. Even in that third quarter, it was kind of shaky at times. Defensively, we really found a way to get stops in that fourth quarter.”

Leave it to the sparkplug herself, Brigham, to provide a jolt. Her long, running two-point jumper at the third quarter buzzer helped energize the Bulldogs, who had trailed by as many as eight points in that period. The fourth quarter belonged to Concordia, which outscored the Broncos, 21-5, over the game’s final 10 minutes. With just under 3:30 to go, Brigham maneuvered on the block and threw up a shot over two defenders that somehow kissed home off the glass. The lead had ballooned to 67-56 at that moment.

Brigham followed up her career-high 24 points last week versus Doane with 22 tallies (8-for-11 shooting from the floor) at Hastings. The scoring punch from the Wahoo, Neb., native combined with a stifling man-to-man defense made the difference. The suddenly frazzled Broncos managed to go only 1-for-8 from the floor in the fourth quarter. With under three minutes remaining in the third quarter, Hastings had owned a 48-40 lead.

When the going got tough, Taysha Rushton (four steals) and company got tougher on the defensive end – and on the boards. Concordia was badly outrebounded in the first half before rallying in that category for a 32-30 edge. The Bulldogs did their best work down the stretch, even while dealing with foul trouble to a host of key players. Sadie Powell wound up fouling out, Brigham played much of the fourth quarter with four fouls and Rushton picked up two early whistles.

Said Olson of Brigham, “She’s just a competitor. When the chips are down, she’s at her best. She just finds ways to make plays. She got to the rim and her shot at the end of the third quarter was really big. It put us a little more at ease. She does a great job of controlling the pace and getting us into things.

“Our press was okay at times, but we were giving up a lot more than we were giving. In that fourth quarter, we continued to press full court, but we weren’t going to trap and give them anything easy. We made them earn it a lot more.”

In supporting another big night from Brigham, three Concordia players totaled 10 points apiece: Abby Krieser, Powell and Rushton. The Texas native Rushton moved up a spot to No. 10 on the program’s all-time scoring list with 1,631 career points. Krieser added five rebounds and three steals while Mackenzie Toomey paced the team with six rebounds. Sammy Leu also added seven points off the bench. The Bulldogs shot 48.3 percent (28-for-58) from the floor and won despite going only 3-for-15 from beyond the arc.

Hastings (8-8, 4-6 GPAC) fell to Concordia for the eighth time in the past nine series meetings. The Broncos have upped their game since the calendar flipped to 2024. On Wednesday, they got a team best 14 points from Bailey Kissinger (in her fourth game since transferring from UNK). Miriam Miller added 12 points and six steals off the bench. The team’s leading scorer on the season, Mariyah Avila was limited to seven points on 3-for-11 shooting. Hastings finished with 20 turnovers.

The Bulldogs will be back at home on Saturday as they look forward to hosting No. 10 Briar Cliff (12-4, 7-3 GPAC) at 2 p.m. CT. Concordia hopes to avenge the 74-66 defeat it suffered at Briar Cliff on Dec. 9. The Bulldogs are 6-0 since that contest and own a 5-1 home record on the season. They will attempt to snap a four-game series losing streak to the Chargers.