SIOUX CITY, Iowa – Tenth-ranked University of Jamestown (N.D.) could only hold down the powerfully-built Concordia University women’s basketball team for so long. The potent offensive trio of Mary Janovich, Bailey Morris and Tracy Peitz provided the fuel in leading the Bulldogs back to the national semifinals for the second time in four years with a 76-59 win over the Jimmies (26-7) on Saturday afternoon in Sioux City, Iowa.
Ninth-year head coach Drew Olson will make his second semifinal appearance at the helm of the Bulldogs (34-2). Concordia’s heralded senior class, led by Morris, has served as the ring leader for what is already one of the greatest seasons in program history.
“We knew we had a really good team because of the senior leadership with Bailey, Tracy, Kelsey (Hizer) and Jericca (Pearson),” Olson said. “Those four are just phenomenal. I knew we would have a great team, but I never projected we’d be 34-2. They’ve definitely exceeded expectations.”
Everything worked as planned after the opening whistle of the second half. Morris directed an offense that picked apart the Jamestown man-to-man defense. On the other end, Concordia mixed in a 2-3 zone and held the Jimmies to 27 points over the final 20 minutes. A 22-4 splurge that concluded with a Peitz layup at the 5:02 mark made the Bulldogs a runaway winner.
Janovich once again sizzled from beyond the arc, going 4-for-6 from deep (8-for-11 from 3-point range at the national tournament) while notching 19 points. Her shooting helped open up driving lanes for Peitz, who dropped in many of her 17 points off the dribble. Morris led the way with 20 points on the strength of her attacking style that led to her making 10 of 14 free throw attempts.
With impressive precision and flow, Concordia shot 57.7 percent (15-for-26) in the second half to help overcome a 50-29 disadvantage on the boards.
“They killed us on the boards,” Olson said. “That was one thing we were kind of worried about because we’re a little undersized. We were able to find ways to get stops. Jericca did a great job on the boards. We got stops and were able to knock down shots on the other end.”
Janovich, Concordia’s first-ever GPAC freshman of the year, drew plenty of praise from Morris following the game. The explosion of Janovich’s game has been a big reason why the Bulldogs stand on the doorstep of their first-ever national title game appearance.
“She’s a huge defensive player for us,” Morris said. “I love having her up in the press. She’s a lot of fun to play with. She bothers a lot of ball handlers. For her to be able to come in and do that as a freshman and play so well on this big of a stage is huge for us.”
With the Bulldogs’ prolific offensive trio clicking, Concordia built a lead as big as 21 points (68-47) in the second half. The Bulldogs have held an advantage of 21 points or more in each of their three national tournament games.
The multitude of weapons proved too much for head coach Greg Ulland’s North Star Athletic Association champions.
“I thought we did a fairly decent job on Morris, but then I look up and she’s got 20 at the end of the night,” Ulland said. “She’s so good and Peitz did her thing. She made a couple moves when it was kind of a vulnerable time. She made some plays and the other kids stepped up. Janovich had a nice night. She shot the ball really well. They’re a really, really good team.”
Morris, who played 36 minutes despite picking up three first-half fouls, added five rebounds, five assists and three steals. Pearson has quietly put together an impressive national tournament off the bench. She chipped in eight points and six rebounds in 25 minutes on Saturday.
On the other side, both Jessica Buck (12 points) and Bryn Woodside (10 points) found their way into double figures for a Jamestown squad that turned it over 24 times and shot 37.9 percent for the game.
A sluggish start found Concordia trailing 13-5 roughly five minutes after the opening tip. The Bulldogs then ran off 10-straight points – a run highlighted by Peitz’s driving reverse layup. Concordia led by as many as seven points (30-23) during the first half following consecutive treys by Laurel Krohn and Morris, who added two free throws during the spurt. The Bulldogs then scored just three points over the half’s final five minutes and trailed 32-31 at the break.
Concordia has improved to 21-13 all-time at the national tournament and now looks forward to Monday’s semifinal clash with fifth-seeded and 19th-ranked Briar Cliff (26-9). Tipoff is slated for 8 p.m. CDT from the Tyson Events Center. The Bulldogs swept a pair of regular-season meetings from the Chargers. The game can be seen live via ESPN3.com.