Heemstra, Dawgs complete 2-0 week with another second half blitz

By Jacob Knabel on Jan. 6, 2024 in Women's Basketball

SEWARD, Neb. – So far in 2024, Concordia University Women’s Basketball has been a second half team. For the second-straight conference outing, the 11th-ranked Bulldogs shook off a halftime deficit in the process of claiming victory. While playing at home for the first time in more than a month, Concordia toppled Dakota Wesleyan, 69-61, inside Friedrich Arena on Saturday (Jan. 6) afternoon. Abby Heemstra helped spark the Bulldogs with 14 points and six rebounds off the bench.

Head Coach Drew Olson’s squad has won four in a row while moving to 11-2 overall (7-2 GPAC) on the season. Concordia enjoyed some home cooking after returning from Wednesday’s 69-63 victory at Jamestown.

“First half, we just weren’t really ourselves,” Olson said. “We were doing a lot of bad things offensively and not really getting into our press a whole lot. Second half, I thought we had great energy and great focus. We did a lot of the little things really well. The third quarter was dominant. I thought we played really, really well. The fourth quarter was kind of a weird, slow methodical game. Defensively, we were phenomenal in that second half, making them work for everything.”

Indeed, the defensive tenacity of the Bulldogs can make for a long 40 minutes. In Saturday’s contest, the first 20 minutes belonged to the visitors as the Tigers jetted out to a 21-8 lead thanks to a 17-2 run. The roles were reversed in the second half when Concordia’s pressure began to wear out DWU. Of the Tigers’ 15 turnovers, nine came after the break.

The Bulldogs forged in front, 43-42, with a Kendal Brigham free throw in the middle of the third quarter and led the rest of the way. Concordia notched the first six points of the second half and outscored DWU, 24-12, in the third period. Heemstra punctuated that quarter with a basket in the closing seconds to push the Bulldog lead to 54-49. The tough baskets inside by the Rock Valley, Iowa, native Heemstra were welcome on a day that saw Concordia go 0-for-8 from 3-point range in the first half (3-for-18 for the game). Heemstra made 6-of-9 shots from the floor and sank both of her free throw attempts.

Said Olson, “She was great. She did a really good job of understanding the matchups that she had and took advantage of it. She’s a really good offensive player – she can hit the mid-range jumpers and make post moves. She had it going today.”

The Wahoo, Neb., native Brigham then ignited the 7-0 surge to open the fourth quarter, putting the Bulldogs in complete control. A steal by Heemstra led to a trey for Brigham before Brigham found Heemstra inside for two more. Sammy Leu followed with a rebound that led to a transition bucket for Brigham, making it a 61-49 lead. DWU managed to get as close as six (67-61) in the final two minutes – but Taysha Rushton helped slam the door with an acrobatic layup, accounting for the game’s final points.

Heemstra was joined by three teammates with double figures in scoring: Brigham (11), Rushton (10) and Sadie Powell (10). Powell also dished out four assists and Abby Krieser led her side with eight rebounds. Concordia was able to make up for its lack of perimeter shooting success by going 14-for-16 (.875) from the foul line. It also shot 44.8 percent (26-for-58) overall) and held a plus-two margin in turnovers (15-13) and rebounds (36-34).

The result snapped a five-game win streak for Dakota Wesleyan (10-4, 5-3 GPAC). A team high 13 points was achieved by both Taliyah Hayes and Emma Yost. Off the bench, Anna Campbell collected nine points and eight rebounds. After shooting 48.3 percent from the floor in the first half, the Tigers went just 5-for-24 (.208) from the field over the final 20 minutes. DWU made 18-of-24 (.750) attempts from the foul line.

The homestand will continue on Wednesday when Doane (10-4, 5-3 GPAC) will make a visit to Seward. Tipoff from Friedrich Arena is set for 6 p.m. CT. The Bulldogs own a 14-game series win streak over the Tigers, who boast the GPAC’s leading scorer in Mak Hatcliff. In Saturday’s action, Doane upset eighth-ranked Briar Cliff, 97-92, in Crete.