Senior recognition highlights final week of regular season

By Jacob Knabel on Feb. 14, 2022 in Women's Basketball

SEWARD, Neb. – Coming off a 2-0 week on the road, the Concordia University Women’s Basketball team now readies for its final home game of the 2021-22 regular season. The Bulldogs will honor a group of five seniors as part of a ceremony set to take place during halftime of the men’s basketball game on Wednesday when they will host Briar Cliff. The regular season will then conclude with a trip to the Corn Palace and a battle with Dakota Wesleyan on Saturday. Head Coach Drew Olson’s squad improved to 15-11 overall (12-8 GPAC) with wins last week over Doane and College of Saint Mary.

This Week

Wednesday, Feb. 16 vs. Briar Cliff (17-10, 13-7 GPAC), 6 p.m.
--Live Webcast/Stats | 104.9 Max Country

Saturday, Feb. 19 at Dakota Wesleyan (22-6, 14-6 GPAC), 4 p.m.
--Live Webcast | Live Stats | 104.9 Max Country

By the numbers

·        Currently in sixth place in the GPAC standings, Concordia will work this week on boosting its seeding for the GPAC tournament set to begin with the quarterfinals on Feb. 23. Entering the week, the Bulldogs are looking up at Morningside (18-2), Dordt (15-5), Dakota Wesleyan (14-6), Northwestern (14-6) and Briar Cliff (13-7) in the GPAC pecking order. The top four seeds earn the right to host in the opening round of the conference tournament. In terms of the most recent ratings percentage index (Jan. 31), Concordia was fourth among GPAC teams at No. 31, trailing only No. 13 Morningside, No. 18 Northwestern and No. 28 Dordt.

·        Last week was about taking care of business against two teams that have been eliminated from GPAC postseason contention. The Bulldogs rallied from a 13-point deficit at Doane and won, 74-63, on Feb. 9. Kendal Brigham poured in a career high 19 points while Taysha Rushton added 18 points. The unleashing of the press energized Concordia, which flustered the Tigers into 28 turnovers. Three days later, the Bulldogs traveled to Omaha and dominated College of Saint Mary, 98-73. Rushton dropped in 22 points and Brigham added 22 more. Other double figure scorers included Rylee Pauli (13) and Taylor Farrell (12). Concordia has now won each of its last three GPAC road games.

·        The Wahoo High School product Brigham enjoyed the finest week of her collegiate career to date. In last week’s two wins, she combined for 37 points while shooting 13-for-19 from the floor and 8-for-11 from beyond the arc. She also collected seven assists and five steals for the week. All of that production came in a grand total of 41 minutes played. The outburst moved Brigham’s season scoring average to 6.2 and her season 3-point shooting percentage to 39.2 (31-for-79). She is one of nine Bulldogs averaging at least 5.0 points per game.

·        Rushton has been on a tear of her own. Over the past six games, she’s scored at least 18 points in each outing and has averaged 23.2 points per contest. Her season point total now stands at 449, which surpasses the 445 she had as a freshman in 2020-21. If the Bulldogs can make a run in the postseason, Rushton just might hit the 1,000-point mark in her second collegiate season. She’s run her career point total to 894. Among GPAC players, Rushton ranks second in 3-point field goals (62) and third in scoring (18.0). The hot streak she’s put together has pushed her season shooting percentages to 39.3 from the floor and 33.0 from beyond the arc. Her 135 career 3-point field goals put her at No. 12 on the program’s all-time list.

·        The seniors who will be recognized on Wednesday are Abby Aplaca, Mackenzie Koepke, Courtney Merryweather, Rylee Pauli and Chloe Schumacher. Pauli has the biggest role this season while starting all 26 games. She’s averaging 7.1 points and 6.9 rebounds per game. Last week, Pauli moved past 500 career rebounds. Unfortunately for Aplaca and Koepke, injuries have kept them sidelined this season. Both Koepke and Pauli saw significant action for the 2018-19 team that won the NAIA Division II national championship. Over the past four seasons, the seniors have helped the program to a combined record of 104-25 and to national tournament appearances in each of the previous three seasons. Koepke was a starter last season and averaged 7.3 points and 5.6 rebounds.

·        Concordia believes it remains in strong position for a potential at-large berth to the national tournament. While the overall record is a modest 15-11, the Bulldogs have played the most challenging schedule in the NAIA (according to the NAIA’s official metrics). Out of conference, Concordia defeated then 13th-ranked Dakota State University (S.D.) as part of the Cattle Classic and went on the road and took out then No. 3 Wayland Baptist University (Texas) on Nov. 27. Inside league play, the Bulldogs have earned quality wins over the likes of Dakota Wesleyan and Northwestern. Concordia will have opportunities for more quality victories this week.

The opponents
Briar Cliff is also a hopeful national tournament qualifier. The Chargers’ signature wins have come over the likes of Dordt and Dakota Wesleyan. Among GPAC teams, Briar Cliff ranks eighth in scoring offense (68.2) and third in scoring defense (63.2). The standouts for Head Coach Brita Hand’s squad include Madelyn Deitchler (15.0 ppg / 6.7 rpg) and Konnor Sudmann (10.0 ppg / 3.3 rpg). The Chargers are coming off home wins over Hastings and Jamestown this past weekend. They will be aiming for a season sweep of the Bulldogs after having won the meeting in Sioux City, Iowa, 74-68, on Nov. 13.

Dakota Wesleyan is 4-0 in the month of February and carries a five-game win streak into the final week of the regular season. The Tigers will host No. 9 Morningside on Wednesday before welcoming Concordia to the Corn Palace on Saturday. DWU has been arguably the GPAC’s top defensive team and sports conference ranks of first in lowest opponent scoring average (57.3) and second in field goal percentage defense (.357). Those facts made the Bulldogs’ performance on Jan. 8 all the more impressive. Concordia shot 50.7 percent and routed the Tigers, 90-58, on that date. Head Coach Jason Christensen’s squad has a strong frontcourt led by the likes of Matti Reiner (12.7 ppg / 5.6 rpg) and Jada Campbell (12.0 ppg / 5.6 rpg).

Next week
GPAC tournament play will open on Feb. 23 with the quarterfinal round. Dates for the proceeding rounds are Feb. 26 for the semifinals and March 1 for the championship game. The highest seeds earn the right to host.