Upset narrowly averted in come-from-behind win at Doane

By Jacob Knabel on Feb. 14, 2024 in Women's Basketball

CRETE, Neb. – The seventh-ranked Concordia University Women’s Basketball team found itself locked up with rival Doane in a much different game than the one that took place roughly a month earlier. The latest matchup saw the host Tigers heave in treys at the close of the first and second quarters and take a 12-point lead to the break before a more energized Bulldog squad emerged. Kendal Brigham and Abby Krieser helped spark the 74-72 come-from-behind win inside the Haddix Center on Wednesday (Feb. 14).

Head Coach Drew Olson’s program has won each of the past 16 series meetings with Doane. The latest victory moved the Bulldogs to 21-4 overall (15-4 GPAC) and one step closer to nailing the league’s No. 2 spot.

“We had a lot of fight and composure,” Olson said of the second half. “Doane is a really good team, and they’re even better at home. That hit some shots that were just tough. Our team showed toughness by staying with it. I’m really proud of them for that … AK was everywhere. She did it all. She hit some shots and defensively she was amazing. We needed it.”

Concordia seemingly had all the momentum when Krieser splashed home a trey to advance the lead to 66-59 in the middle of the fourth quarter. To its credit, Doane responded and put itself in position to hoist a potential game-winning 3-point field goal at the buzzer. It came up well short and the Bulldogs were able to exhale. Two free throws by Taysha Rushton with 2.0 seconds remaining on the clock supplied the game’s deciding tallies. The clutch free throws for Rushton followed a game-tying bucket by Tiger star Mak Hatcliff.

While the contest sharply contrasted the earlier meeting in Seward (101-60 win), it wasn’t completely unlike Concordia’s recent trips (in 2021-22 and 2022-23) to the Haddix Center, which also required the Bulldogs to come back from halftime deficits. At last, Concordia got rolling on Wednesday during a third quarter that featured a 25-13 scoring advantage for the road team. After going 1-for-11 from 3-point range in the opening half, the Bulldogs drained 6-of-11 triples out of the break. The tandem of Krieser (team high 18 points) and Brigham (10 points and 10 assists) proved lethal in transition.

Defensively, Concordia had some breakdowns, but it managed to limit Hatcliff, the GPAC’s leading scorer, to 14 points on 4-for-13 shooting. Powell frequently matched up with Hatcliff, and the Bulldogs brought help when necessary. Hatcliff was whistled for her fourth foul early in the fourth quarter. Doane got a game high 20 points (8-for-14 shooting) from Maddie Portwine and 12 points from Macy Holtz. It was almost enough for the Tigers (14-11, 9-10 GPAC), who earlier this season took down then eighth-ranked Briar Cliff at home.

Krieser (7-for-12 from the floor) added eight rebounds and a pair of steals to her stat line. Brigham notched her first career double-double and three Bulldogs chipped in with exactly 11 points apiece: Abby Heemstra, Powell and Kristin Vieselmeyer. Heemstra grabbed eight rebounds and Powell snared seven. Heemstra had the mid-range jumper working and nailed one that broke a 70-70 tie in the final minute. The improved second half production allowed Concordia to slightly outshoot Doane, 40.9 to 39.0 percent.

Said Olson, “I have to comment on our post players. Kristin started great and hits a three in the fourth quarter. Then Abby Heemstra comes in and plays awesome. She was solid throughout the game and had the composure to hit that baseline jumper. Those two played great.”

The Bulldogs will take another shot at No. 1 Dordt (24-1, 19-0 GPAC) on Saturday in Sioux Center, Iowa. Game time from DeWitt Gymnasium is slated for 4 p.m. CT. The two sides met in Seward on Feb. 5 and played a tight contest that went to the Defenders, 84-79. With three games remaining in the regular season, Dordt has locked up the outright GPAC regular season title.