JAMESTOWN, N.D. – When the GPAC quarterfinal round was moved up a day early, the Concordia University Women’s Basketball team scrambled to get on the road to make the long trek to Jamestown, North Dakota. Snow problem. The sixth-seeded Bulldogs used an impressive first half and then a series of clutch plays in the fourth quarter to earn the postseason victory, 73-67, over the 19th-ranked and third-seeded Jimmies on Tuesday (Feb. 21). Concordia earned a measure of revenge for the two regular season defeats it suffered at the hands of Jamestown.
Head Coach Drew Olson’s squad moved to 19-10 overall on the season. As a program, the Bulldogs have advanced to at least the GPAC semifinal round for the 10th time in the past 12 seasons.
“We showed a lot of toughness and maturity in learning from the last two games and the season as a whole,” Olson said. “We’ve been in those moments a lot. Sometimes we’ve responded well and sometimes we haven’t. Because of the last two games (close losses to Briar Cliff and Dakota Wesleyan), we knew what it would take. I just thought our team showed incredible guts and toughness.”
There was a moment in the fourth quarter when things could have gone sideways if Concordia had allowed it. The Jimmies managed to shake off a 14-point halftime deficit and took their first lead of the night, 57-56, at the 6:18 mark of the final period. Star Bulldog guard Taysha Rushton picked up her fourth foul at that same juncture – and momentum seemed to have swung the other way. The 9-0 Concordia run that followed showed guts on the road.
That spurt began with a put-back basket from Kristin Vieselmeyer and included a cold-blooded trey from Kendal Brigham. Down 65-57 after Mackenzie Toomey capped the run with a bucket, Jamestown soon fought back to within four before eventually running out of time. The last gasp for the Jimmies came when Kia Tower scored to cut the deficit to 70-67 with 13 seconds remaining. Rushton answered by making two free throws, putting the game on ice. Though her shot was off a bit, Rushton filled the stat sheet with eight rebounds, five assists and three steals.
It was truly a team effort for Concordia, which managed to limit Jamestown (21-8) to 36.9 percent shooting. A rash of early turnovers for the Jimmies factored into the Bulldogs quickly building a double-digit advantage. Not surprisingly, Jamestown made a push on its home court, but was denied by a balanced effort from Concordia. Five Bulldogs scored in double figures: Sadie Powell (14), Abby Heemstra (13), Abby Krieser (13), Brigham (10) and Rushton (10). The aggressive nature of Heemstra stood out. She also snared six rebounds.
Said Olson, “That was an awesome win and it was all across the board. Everyone had a hand in that. There were little moments here and there for all of them. It was just really, really cool to see.”
The Jimmies still appear to be safely in the national tournament field, but they were hoping to end a GPAC postseason drought. Standout Hannah DeMars was held without a point in the first half on Tuesday but wound up with a double-double (10 points and 10 rebounds). During the rough moments in the first half, Audrey Rodakowski helped keep her side afloat and posted a game high 15 points. Kia Tower notched 14 points (5-for-20 from the floor).
Concordia will attempt to sled-dog its way back home once it’s safe to do so. The quarterfinal round was moved to Tuesday (instead of Wednesday) due to a widespread winter storm. In the GPAC semifinal round on Saturday, the Bulldogs will be at second-seeded Briar Cliff (22-7) for a 3 p.m. CT tipoff. Concordia will be tasked with trying to take out another foe that it was twice defeated by during the regular season. The 23rd-ranked Chargers topped the Bulldogs by scores of 87-76 in Sioux City and 56-51 in Seward. At stake for Concordia will be a chance to appear in the GPAC championship game for the seventh time in nine years.
Updated #GPACWBB Tournament Bracket with the Quarterfinals Completed on Tuesday Night. Semfinals on Saturday for @dordtdefenders, @dwusports, @bcuchargers, and @cunebulldogs— Great Plains Athletic Conference (@GPACSports) February 22, 2023
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