These are video and print recaps I’ve produced from the NAIA DII Women’s Basketball National Championship in Sioux City, Iowa in 2014 and 2015.
Saint Xavier Avenges 2014 First Round Loss
The Cougars looked to senior forward Morgan Stuut to fill her extensive role, as she averages 16.6 points and 12.5 rebounds per game. Stuut led the Cougars in rebounds (six) and assists (two) at the break. Stuut finished with 21 points, 14 rebounds and five assists.
“It’s my ball, and I want my team to have the ball,” Stuut said, “rebounding is something I’ve always prided myself on here in college and it’s something that no one can take away from me.”
Caitlin McMahon also played very well in tonight’s matchup for the Cougars. McMahon finished with 18 points, shooting 9-11 from the floor and 4-5 from the free throw line and recorded 12 rebounds.
“Basketball is a case of advantage/disadvantage,” St. Xavier head coach Bob Hallberg said, “all in all, it was a good game for her.”
The Bobcats were led by senior guard and leading scorer Kayla Kepler, who continued her strong performance in this year’s championship. Kepler started hot from the field, scoring seven of the Lady Bobcats’ first 15 points. Kepler finished with 23 points, shooting 6-16 from the floor and 11-12 from the free throw line.
The Lady Bobcats made a Cinderella run last season as a No. 7 seed and defeated St. Xavier in the first round 68-43, eventually finishing as the national runner-up. They’re known in Sioux City for their raucous crowd, who did not disappoint again tonight.
“I’m proud of my kids and they battled. They could have given up when they were down ten, but they battled,” College of the Ozarks head coach Becky Vest said.
“They defeated us in the first round last year,” Hallberg said, “[we needed] to concentrate on their guards . . . I thought we could stop the dribble penetration early in the ball game but it gave us some trouble, that’s why we switched to a zone.”
Tonight’s game came down to whichever team could get the most shots, as both teams traded buckets for the first 20 minutes. St. Xavier led 40-39 at halftime, but couldn’t extend the lead to more than six until the final two minutes. The Cougars led the Lady Bobcats 85-76 at the 52 second mark, forcing quick shots and early fouls for the final minute.
St. Xavier University takes on the No. 3 seed Hastings College Broncos on Saturday, March 14th at 8:00 pm. Hastings defeated No. 7 seed Ashford University in the second round, 48-37.
Saint Francis vs. Tennessee Wesleyan University 2015 NAIA Tourney – Round 2
Flames Get Hot in Second Half
Midway through the second day of first round action,Huntington University. (Ind.) the Huntington Foresters were defeated by the College of Saint Mary Flames (Neb.) 63-54 in the NAIA DII Women’s Basketball National Championship.
The Flames looked to run their offense through junior center Deaundra Young early and often. Young averages 20.7 points and 10.1 rebounds per game.
Young racked up a double-double in the first half with 12 points and 10 rebounds, shooting 5-14 from the floor and 2-2 from the free-throw line. Young took over the second half, finishing with 27 points and 19 rebounds to go with her two blocks.
“The first half, Deaundra was kind of settling for some elbow shots in there, which she can make,” Flames head coach Chuck Brewer said, “In the second half we tried to get her down in the low post where she’s pretty tough.”
Young wasn’t the only player with a double-double in today’s contest.
The Foresters cruised into halftime on a 14-4 run spanning the final 3:46 of the first half, increasing the lead to eight, 32-24. Leading the way was junior guard/forward Amelia Recker, who shot 5-6 from the floor and 5-5 from the free-throw line, scoring 15 first half points and a team-high eight rebounds. Recker finished with a double-double of her own, tallying 21 points and 10 rebounds, shooting 8-14 from the floor.
The Foresters were stifled after halftime, going scoreless from the 15:08 to the 9:24 mark, and were on the wrong end of a 26-10 second half run.
“I think we just kind of stopped attacking on offense. We were on our heels, and I was passing up shots I don’t normally pass up,” Recker said.
Huntington hung around despite the second-half deficit, only down by four with four minutes to play, 50-46. Eventually, the play of Young and the Flames was too much for the Foresters to overcome.
“I thought the story of the second half was just cold shooting on our part. We missed open shots, Huntington head coach Lori Culler said. “When we shoot well, we are pretty tough to beat, but if we don’t shoot the ball well, we’re pretty average.”
The first half of today’s contest was a quick moving, defensive affair. Both teams hovered around 30% from the floor through much of the first half, mostly due to the stout defense on both ends. Huntington’s 14-4 run to close the half pushed its shooting percentage up to 43%, whereas College of St. Mary’s dropped to 29%.
College of St. Mary will face the winner of the No. 1 seed Concordia University (NE) and No. 8 seed Bryan College on Friday, March 13th at 1:45 pm.
Morningside Upends UC Merced
The Tyson Center filled up quickly before tonight’s game as it was preceded by the NAIA’s presentation of all 32 qualifying teams in their Parade of Champions, among the Sioux City residents on site to cheer for the hometown Mustangs.
Morningside’s second leading scorer and leading rebounder, Ashlynn Muhl, did not make the trip due to an emergency appendectomy. Muhl averages 12.9 points and 9.1 rebounds per game in her senior campaign.
“Obviously you can’t lose your best player and have it not affect you…we’re not gonna make up for her with just one person, she’s too good of a player,” Morningside head coach Jamie Sale said.
The one-two punch of Taylor Bahensky and Jessica Tietz filled in for Muhl, dominating the first half. Bahensky led all scorers at the break with 12 points, shooting 4-6 from the field and 2-2 from 3-point range. Tietz scored 11 in the first half, and shot 5-5 from the field. Bahensky finished with 19 points on 7-9 FG and Tietz finished with 16 points and shot 7-7 FG, adding 6 rebounds.
“Everyone wants to beat that team that gets it,” Bahensky said when asked about overcoming the pressure of being the No. 1 overall seed.
The Mustangs utilized a 2-3 zone half-court trap effectively, forcing UC Merced into committing 20 turnovers. On the other end, UC Merced forced 14 turnovers.
“We like to run a zone with man principles and pressure,” Sale said. “We just feel that we have long, athletic players and a lot of depth.”
The Bobcats ranked 12th in NAIA DII in scoring defense per game, allowing 57.44 points per game on the season. The Bobcats also are ranked 16th in NAIA DII in steals per game with 11, but only stole the ball four times against the Mustangs.
This was the first appearance for UC Merced in their program’s three-year history.
“It’s definitely a humbling experience for all of us…I never thought we’d be here in three seasons,” UC Merced head coach Kevin Pham said.
The Bobcats second-leading scorer and integral part of the offense coming into tonight’s game was freshman Christina Castro, but she was limited to just three points, shooting 1-7 in the first half. Castro finished the game with six points, shooting 2-11 from the floor.
“We know what we’re working for now, we know how hard we are gonna have to work and what we are gonna have to do to get back here again,” Castro said.
Morningside will moves on to play the winner of the No. 4 seed Eastern Oregon and No. 5 seed Oklahoma Wesleyan on Friday, March 13th at 7:00 pm.
Last GPAC School Falls, Cardinal Stritch Wins 82-71
Morningside found themselves down by nine with 10 minutes to go in the first half–and the frustration of trying “not to lose” showed itself early. But the Mustangs weren’t going into halftime without some sort of fight. Their run-and-gun scheme proved a point as the Mustangs took the lead back 28-26 with 2:21 left in the first half. A foul with only one second remaining had Jamie Sale, Morningside head coach, furious with his team as the pending free throws tied the game at 34. However, on the inbound, Cardinal Stritch’s foul placed Leann Osten at the line for a one-and-one, but she missed and the score remained 34-34.
Leading all scorers at the half was Becky Gilbreth of Cardinal Stritch with seven points. Gilbreth also tallied two rebounds and shot three for seven in the first half.
Morningside’s Ashlynn Muhl started the second half strong with five quick points but the Mustangs never saw more than a five-point lead, and found themselves trailing by six with 14:14 left in the second half.
The Mustangs really couldn’t find a groove in the second half due to very intense defense by Cardinal Stritch, who forced 23 turnovers and scored 27 points off of turnovers. Cardinal Stritch shot 49 percent (27-55) from the field in this game and an impressive 50 percent (five of 10) from three. Cardinal Stritch held sharpshooting Morningside to 29 percent (7-24) from three and just 61 percent (eight of 13) from the free throw line.
This marks the first time that Cardinal Stritch will play in a final four game. The victory also knocked the remaining GPAC team out of the tournament. This also marks the first time since 2007 that no GPAC teams have made the final four and only the second time in the 14-year history of the GPAC that this has happened.
“I couldn’t be more proud of our team. We made the final four with three victories, but I really think that it started in practice. We had good practices all season long and it helped us here,” said John Pfaffl, head coach of Cardinal Stritch.
Morningside Rallies from 20-Point Deficit, Wins 78-70
Tonight’s final second-round game found the hometown Morningside Mustangs defeating the Flames of the College of St. Mary 78-70. The Flames began tonight’s contest on a 19-1 run in the first five minutes of the first half, but found themselves tied before they could break thirty.
What helped the Flames attain such an early lead was very strong ball movement and fast-break points. However, back-to-back threes by Leann Osten of Morningside put the large Sioux City crowd back into the game as the score sat 19-7 with 14:01 left in the first half.
“I just wanted them to relax. They were playing the game as if they wanted to not lose it instead of trying to win,” said Jamie Sale, Morningside’s head coach.
The Flames’ lead began to shrink more and more heading toward halftime as the Mustangs began to find a groove. By the six-minute mark, the Mustangs found themselves down just two after an array of threes.
“We are a good team, but not a very deep team, and anytime you take someone like Deaundra Young out to rest, it’ll lead to some runs,” said Chuck Brewer, St. Mary’s head coach.
Heading into the break, the score was 42-40 in favor of St. Mary’s. Morningside shot 14 of 32 (44 percent) in the first half from the floor while College of St. Mary shot 16 of 33 (48 percent). The biggest boost that allowed Morningside to get back into the game was their impressive five of 11 from behind the arc in the first half (45 percent).
“‘We said before the game that we knew that we were a little deeper, and if we kept grinding on them then we were going to be able to get back into the game,” Sale said.
After intermission, the Mustangs continued their strong play, jumping ahead 52-47 at the 15-minute mark left in the second half. At just about the 10-minute mark, College of St. Mary and Morningside found themselves tied at 62 apiece after a three from Taylor Bahensky (Morningside).
The final stretch poised the victory for Morningside as it took them until the remaining minute of the game to put the game out of reach for St. Mary’s.
Bahensky led all Morningside players with 18 points in the game. She shot six of eight from the field and three of four from downtown in the victory.
The Mustangs shot 42 percent (24 of 57) from the field and 45 percent (11 of 22) from three-point range in their victory. The Mustangs also tallied only 12 assists to their 22 turnovers. The Flames shot 42 percent (26 of 61) from the field and just 31 percent (6 of 19) from the three-point line. The Flames had a stronger assist-to-turnover ratio, with 17 assists to 18 turnovers.
Morningside moves on to the round of eight on Saturday and will play fifth-seeded Cardinal Stritch University with the chance to move on to the national semifinals on Monday. Cardinal Stritch knocked off first-seeded Jamestown University on Friday, being the first team to upset a one-seed all tournament.
Runner-Up Looks to Rebound
“Our players know their roles, they follow them and know what to do,” said Mike Williams, Davenport University’s head coach.
It’s no secret that the Davenport University Panthers win, and they win often. Posting an incredible 30-1 (21-1) record this year, with five new starters, made them a clear favorite to earn a No.1-seed heading into the NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball National Championship. The Panthers have never won a National Championship, but with two second-place finishes, the most recent coming last year to Indiana Wesleyan, Davenport looks as strong as any team to take home the Title.
“We stress taking care of the basketball, we stress not fouling,” Williams said. “There are some things that we could even do in a shoot-around that could tighten up those areas.”
There are many factors that allow Davenport to be one of the fiercest teams on the court. For starters, six players on their roster have posted over 200 points on the season entering the championships that began on Wednesday.
However, it is defense that wins championships. The Panthers run a full-court, man-to-man trap press from the first tip until the final buzzer–and it works. This system calls for constant substitutions due to the intense nature, but the depth of Davenport makes up for it.
“Our 16-18 minutes is more like 25-30 with the pace we play; it may be a little deceiving,” Williams said. “Some teams like to walk it up the floor–play in a zone–but we try and play high-octane the whole time.”
It could appear to some that the coaches of Davenport are greedy and lack a sense of sportsmanship with what could be seen as running up the score. However, these tournament games are played for 40 minutes at a time and with just one bad play, the season could end.
“We want our players to play one style. We want them to play fast, and we want them to play hard. We would rather run up and down, but we can play multiple styles,” Williams said. “It sends a message that we have a lot of equal pieces on our team. We don’t really have one shining star, but a lot of equal parts, and sometimes that makes it tough to defend.”
Last season, the Panthers went on a tear through their section of the bracket, defeating College of St. Mary, Cardinal Stritch, Eastern Oregon and Northwestern, all of whom have made it back to the championship this season. However, a disappointing loss came in the Championship Game to Indiana Wesleyan with a final score of 61-43.
“If you look ahead at anything, that is where you get yourself in trouble,” Williams said.
Davenport entered this year’s championships on an impressive 25-game winning streak and an absolute domination of their first two opponents. Wednesday, the Panthers defeated Ave Maria University 94-40 and then beat Purdue University Calumet 110-77.
“Obviously we’ve got talent, but when you look at the little things, we weren’t happy about fouls, we turned it over 22 times,” Williams said. “Obviously, if you want to go deep in the tournament, those are areas you want to be sharp in.”
It will take a genius game-plan and absolute flawless play to throw Davenport out of their rhythm, but it only takes one game. Davenport University will take on second-seeded Hastings College at 6 p.m. on Saturday evening with a chance to play in the semifinals. Hastings defeated Indiana Wesleyan this evening by a score of 73-63.
Points Record Broken as Southwestern Advances
There’s no better way to begin the second round than with a record-setting output.
The Moundbuilders of Southwestern College of Winfield, Kan. made history in the NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball Championship this morning as their 112-point output tied the team record for points in a game and helped set the total points in a single game record (219). With a 12-point deficit at halftime (59-47), the Moundbuilders seemed at the mercy of the Olivet Nazarene Tigers.
This new record shattered the 20-year standing record of 199 points set back in 1994. It was a complete team effort to earn the victory, as the team leader in points, Zefiryn Bryan, tallied just 18 points.
“You just have to stay disciplined. You have to make them take twos instead of threes, because in the first half they hit a lot of threes,” said Dave Denly, Southwestern’s head coach.
The first-half deficit attributed mostly to poor free-throw shooting and turnovers; adjustments were made in order to turn the game around.
“The hardest part, coaching wise, is to tell kids how to handle the press, and how to not settle for shots,” Denly said. “We wanted to get to the rim…and our kids just persevered. They persevered.”
The Moundbuilders shot poorly from the free-throw line in the first half, a mere 41 percent (seven of 17). That, along with 21 first-half turnovers, can put any team in a bind with only 20 minutes to play.
“We were terrible from the line in the first half,” Denly said. “With the pace going back and forth like that…it’s your moment to slow down, take a breath and refocus.”
And refocus the Moundbuilders did, going on a tear in the second half. The Moundbuilders put together an astonishing 65-point second half of the game compared to Olivet Nazarene’s 48.
Coaches rarely gameplan to break scoring records when it comes down to championship play–it happens by circumstance. And it is much more special when the record pairs with a win. Olivet Nazarene usually plans to put up a lot of points, substituting all five players nearly every two minutes of game time. This method worked to a tee for Olivet Nazarene on Wednesday morning as they defeated the second-seeded Concordia University in the first upset of this year’s championship.
“Honestly, we just knew that we were going out there with our gameplan, and hope that it would go our way,” said Lauren Stamatis, Olivet Nazarene’s head coach.
It did not go in their favor, however. A very poor shooting half helped the comeback of Southwestern as Olivet Nazarene shot just ten percent (two of 20) from three-point range in the second half compared to their 35 percent (10 of 28) in the first half.
“It definitely helps when you’re making shots…but you know it happens to everybody,” Stamatis said. “We all have those times where we are missing some shots so we just hope that we can get some boards to make up for that.”
With the loss, the almost-Cinderella Tigers will head back to Bourbonnais, Ill. in hopes to rebuild and prepare for a championship run next season. As for the Moundbuilders, their next opportunity falls tomorrow afternoon, as they gear up to play the No.1-seeded, undefeated University of St. Francis Cougars. This quarterfinal matchup pits quite an output as St. Francis put together a convincing second-round win 83-59 win over Siena Heights.
“They defend; they just grind you at halfcourt,” Denly said. “You have to score points here at this tournament. Playing in the morning helped us, and now we have a rest period until tomorrow at one o’clock.”
No. 3 Indiana Wesleyan Starts Hot to Defend Title, Wins 79-50
Looking to defend their 2013 NAIA National Championship Title, the third-seeded Indiana Wesleyan Wildcats tipped off their 2014 run against the sixth-seeded Oklahoma Wesleyan Lady Eagles with a blowout victory, 79-50.
The Wildcats started off hot, looking to bounce back from their Crossroads League loss to St. Francis on March 3, 75-63. Finishing with a 26-7 (14-4) record, this season was a bit of a disappointment for a defending champ, receiving a third-seed position.
“We’re not looking in a rear-view mirror of last year–that’s over,” said Steve Brooks, Indiana Wesleyan head coach. ”We’re not defending anything; it’s a whole new year. We have to climb the mountain again. A lot of people would love to have 27-7 as a bad year.”
The Lady Eagles looked to improve on what was an up and down journey to the championship. With an impressive 12-2 Midlands Collegiate Athletic Conference record, Oklahoma Wesleyan finished with 22 wins and 11 losses on the season, losing their last game prior to the tournament to the College of St. Mary’s (Neb.) 79-63. That loss snapped a nine-game winning streak.
Tonight’s game began with a barrage of three-pointers for the Wildcats as the team knocked down four of five in the first ten minutes of play. The lead kept growing for the Wildcats as constant ball pressure and strong help-side defense forced errant passes by the Lady Eagles throughout the first half.
“Defense is an effort thing that can be there every night,” said Taylor Goshert, Indiana Wesleyan guard.
At halftime, the score sat at 43-24 in favor of Indiana Wesleyan. The three-point field goals continued until time expired in the first as the Wildcats shot 66 percent (eight of 12) in the first. The leading scorer for the Wildcats going into halftime was Carlee Cottrell with 14 points, shooting five of six from the floor and four of five from the three-point line.
Oklahoma Wesleyan, on the other hand, shot only 25 percent from the field and 14 percent from the three-point line in the first half, committing seven turnovers and nine team fouls. Nicole Tate led the Lady Eagles in scoring in the first half with six points on 3-5 from the field.
The defending champs continued their stronghold over the Lady Eagles, forcing turnovers and contesting every shot as they did in the first half. At the ten-minute mark left in the game, the score sat at 61-35, as Goshert led all scorers with 23 points. The final score is indicative of this contest as the Wildcats kept pushing and picked up the win.
Goshert continued her scoring output until the five-minute mark, when Coach Brooks pulled her to allow some bench players to check into the game for garbage time. She finished with 26 points and six rebounds, shooting four of eight from the field, three of five from the three-point line, and an incredible 15 of 18 from the free-throw line.
“When you get to the basket and they have bigs inside, you have the opportunity to draw fouls, and those free-throws are the shots you gotta make,” Goshert said.
This victory sends the Wildcats to the second round to meet second-seeded Hastings College of the Great Plains Athletic Conference. Hastings College defeated Union College of Kentucky in the first round earlier today.
“Hastings is really, really good…we’re gonna have our work cut out for us,” Brooks said.
Siena Heights to Face St. Francis After 77-59 Win
The match-ups between fourth- and fifth-seeded teams rarely disappoint, but the Siena Heights University Saints and the Tennessee Wesleyan College Bulldogs had a clear winner from the start, with a final score of 77-59 in favor of Siena Heights.
The Saints finished their regular season with a 25-8 overall record and a 17-6 record in the Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference (WHAC). They found themselves in a prime position to make a run, as this year is their second appearance in the championship.
The fourth-seeded Saints matched up against the fifth-seeded Bulldogs to find an equally-deserving opponent. The Bulldogs have not seen a lot of championship wins, only notching three in school history. But, this 24-4 (18-2 in Appalachian Athletic Conference) team really didn’t show up to play in the first half, despite their impressive season and conference records.
The first half had a fairly consistent pace, as the Saints slowly gained a ten-point lead with just over nine minutes left in the first half. Led by senior Jen Jasinski, this Saints team seemed to have full control of the game from tipoff. The first half finished 43-30, and it seemed that the Saints would end up running away with the victory.
“We just played our defense, we knew scoring would come…as long as we get stops, we can get scores,” Jasinski said, who scored 14 points for Siena Heights.
In the first half, the Saints shot 57 percent from the floor (16 of 28), committing seven team fouls and eight turnovers. On the other bench, the Bulldogs managed to put up 30 points in the first half, shooting 42 percent from the floor (11 of 26) while committing seven team fouls and 13 turnovers.
The second half demonstrated a similar story, as Siena Heights maintained control and ended up finishing the game strong. Siena Heights shot 49 percent from the field (26 of 53), controlled the game despite 14 assists to 15 turnovers and committed 14 team fouls. Tennessee Wesleyan heads back to Athens with the loss as they were only able to manage a field goal percentage of 40 while committing 16 turnovers and 19 team fouls.
“Last year, I think we were a little happy to just be out here. Now, we expect to win a game or two,” said Sue Syljebeck, Saints’ head coach.
The Saints will play the St. Francis University Cougars on Friday at 10:15 a.m. St. Francis is coming off of a victory over Ashford University. The winner of the Siena Heights and St. Francis game heads to the quarterfinals on Saturday.
“We just have to come out and play our defense…St. Francis is a tough team but if we play our defense, we can get them,” Jasinski said.
Bulldogs Fall Early, Tigers Continue to Second Round
Bright and early, perhaps too early—the matchup between the Concordia Bulldogs and Olivet Nazarene Tigers tipped off the 2014 NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball Championship with a final score of 91-86 in favor of the Tigers.
The Tigers came out of the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference (CCAC) with a strong conference record of 12-4 while the Concordia Bulldogs, earning the No.2 seed, went 16-4 in Great Plains Athletic Conference (GPAC) play.
Olivet Nazarene ranks first in total assists in DII with 671. In contrast, Concordia ranks sixth in DII for steals on the season with 386, creating an interesting matchup.
This morning’s game began with a quick Bailey Morris (CUNE) turnover, and a full five-person substitution for the Tigers not even a minute into action. It turned out to be necessary, as the fast-paced action didn’t stop until the buzzer sounded for halftime.
“Our system is similar to the Grinnell program, and a lot like hockey. If we didn’t have to sub them in at the table, we wouldn’t,” said Lauren Stamatis, Tigers’ head coach, on her constant substitutions.
Turnovers, fast-break points and free throws dictated the game. By the 15-minute mark in the first half, the foul count sat at five (CUNE) to three (OLU) and a score of a 14-9 upset. It took the Bulldogs seven minutes to break into double-digit points, as the zone and trap scheme for Olivet Nazarene prompted a change of pace. Concordia’s Morris started off a little slow with two turnovers and only five points and two rebounds, but Tracy Peitz picked up that slack with an early nine points.
A total of 39 free throws were attempted in the first half, with Olivet Nazarene gaining the upper hand shooting 78 percent, 18 of 23 attempts, while Concordia shot a mere 50 percent, eight of 16 attempts. Concordia committed 20 turnovers in the first half and shot 16 of 39 attempts from the floor. Meanwhile, the Tigers committed 16 turnovers and made 14 of 39 attempts.
At halftime, the score favored Olivet Nazarene 50-46. However, at the nine-minute mark of the first half, Olivet Nazarene had a ten-point lead on the Bulldogs.
“We expected it. The way we play is to go on runs, make some shots and miss some,” Stamatis said.
It only took the Bulldogs a minute and a half to turn the tide around, gaining a three-point lead with 18:20 left in the game. Coach Drew Olson had finally cracked the Tigers’ fast-paced game plan, starting the second half with a 10-3 run.
However, Olivet Nazarene pulling the upset over Concordia. The Tigers were led by Courtney Allenbaugh in points with 22 and forced a total 31 turnovers as a team, while only shooting 33 percent from the field compared to Concordia’s 37 percent.
“Our team goal is 33 forced turnovers a game,” Stamatis said.
With this upset, the Tigers will go on to play the winner of the Southwestern University and Eastern Oregon University game on Friday at 8:30 a.m.