MyNAIATourney 2016 Game Recaps

Austin Druse and Tyler Schuster discuss the finals of the NAIA DII Women’s Basketball Championship between the No. 3 Marian Knights and the No. 1 Southern Oregon Raiders.


Marian crushes Mount Marty, headed to finals

March 14
Marian University (Ind.) punched its ticket to the finals of the NAIA DII Women’s Basketball National Championship after the Knights smoked the Lancers of Mount Marty College (S.D.) 84-55.

The momentum of beating the No. 1 overall seed carried over for the Marian Knights in the first quarter. Marian blew the doors off in just the first six minutes with a 20-6 run. Marian went on an additional 20-6 run to open the second quarter as well.

“I think we were 20-28 in the first half from the field, and I don’t know that we’ve ever shot it that well. I think that’s just a product of our defense leading into our offense,” Marian head coach Katie Gearalds said.

Laken Hasser-Smith dropped eight first-quarter points, and 17 in the first half. Hasser-Smith shot a very efficient 8 of 10 from the floor, and dropped four dimes through 20 minutes of play. She would go on to finish with a game-high 21 points and a game-high five assists.

“Ya know, I was just thinkin’, ‘Hey, we have to stay confident as a team. Be ready to shoot when you’re open,’” Hasser-Smith said. “We knew this team was gonna be good and guard us tight and I think we just did a really good job at finding each other when we were open and it made it easy.”

What really opened up the game for Hasser-Smith was her teammates’ ability to knock down shots early. Marian shot 71 percent in the first half on 20 of 28 shooting, and picked up 15 points from downtown, five makes on nine attempts. Anastacia Kirby tallied a 14 points in the first on 5 of 5 from the floor and 2 of 2 from the 3-point line, providing a 1a. and 1b. attack for the Knights. Kirby finished with 14 points and six boards.

“They got shooters, they got post players that step out and shoot. . . got wings that are really good at puttin’ the ball on the floor and they got a couple of point guards who are really good,” Mount Marty head coach Tom Schlimgen said.

Everything that Kirby provided in the first half for the Knights was extended by Kellie Kirkhoff in the second half. Kirkhoff scored nine of her 15 points in the third quarter and knocked down 6 of 10 shots.

“I think they did a great job of stepping up. They hit big shots for us, that’s what we need from them,” Hasser-Smith said.

Mount Marty’s Alex Kneeland struggled to hit shots from anywhere in the first half, especially the first quarter. She initially missed three of her first four shots, and finished the first half with just eight points on 3 of 10 from the field and 0 of 5 from beyond the arc. She would go on to finish with a team-high 14 points on just 6 of 19 shooting.

The Knights will make their first appearance in the national final in school history, and will face the winner of No.1 Southern Oregon University (32-1) and conference-foe Goshen College (Ind.) (27-8). Tipoff for the championship is set for Tuesday, March 15, at 7:00 p.m. central time, and will be broadcast via livestream on ESPN3.

Southern Oregon avenges last year’s loss to Tabor, will face Goshen in semifinals

March 12, 2016
Only one No. 1 seed remains in the field, the Southern Oregon Raiders. The Raiders defeated the No. 3 seed Tabor College Bluejays (Kan.) 73-67 on Saturday evening. Last year, Tabor was a No. 7 seed and upset the then No. 3 seed Southern Oregon 72-65.

The Raiders will play the No. 5 Goshen College (Ind.) Maple Leafs on Monday, March 14th at 8:00 p.m. central time in the semifinal round. That game will be broadcast via livestream on ESPN3.

For Southern Oregon, they are making their first appearance in the national semifinals since 1997, and will have to do so without senior guard Ashley Claussen, who went down with an apparent knee injury in the first half. Claussen then returned for just 12 seconds in the 3rd quarter before falling to the floor and re-aggravating her knee. Clausen averages 18.1 points per game and shoots 42 percent from three.

“It doesn’t look good, they’re thinking that she’s stretching ligaments initially. She warmed it up at half, was moving pretty fine forward, was a little questioning laterally, she wanted to try it out,” Southern Oregon coach Alex Carlson said. “It’s, it’s not great.”

Carlson noted that his team needed to stick to running certain sets in order to make up for the loss of Claussen, and that it will be difficult for his team moving forward.

As per gameplan, the Southern Oregon Raiders came out in their zone full-court press that falls back into a 2-3. That defense forced 14 first-half Tabor turnovers, which the Raiders were able to capitalize on with 18 points off of those turnovers. That pressure carried over into the final 20 minutes, and the Bluejays finished with 22 turnovers on the night, allowing 26 points off of them.

“They’re a totally different team than they were a year ago, they run some different stuff,” Tabor coach Shawn Reed said.

Both Teena Loewen of Tabor and Carly Meister of Southern Oregon dropped 12 points in the first half. Loewen shot a perfect 6-of-6 from the floor in the first half to go along with her five rebounds and two assists. Meister hit five shots on seven attempts and grabbed two boards.

“I thought [Meister] made a lot of improvement in one year. They leaned heavily on her in the first half, I thought we did a little bit better job on her in the second half,” Reed said.

Neither of the two produced in the second half to the standard set in the first half, as Loewen tallied just six points. However, she did finish with game-highs in points and rebounds, with 18 and 12 respectively. Meister was held to four points in the second half, and grabbed just four boards on the night.

While this Southern Oregon team lacks deep tournament experience, their opponent, the Goshen Maple Leafs (Ind.) also lack that experience, as this is Goshen’s first trip to the semifinals.

“I think that’s another one of those things that’s neat again about this tournament, you know, you have different styles,” said Carlson when asked about the isolation game Goshen plays. “They handle the ball really well. You know, our job is to speed it up and be as active as possible.”

Goshen wins again, headed to national semifinals

March 12, 2016
After dominating in an upset win over No. 1 seed Saint Xavier (Ill.) (30-4), the No. 5 Seed Goshen College Maple Leafs (Ind.) (27-8) continued its Cinderella run into the national semifinals, defeating the No. 3 Dakota Wesleyan University Tigers (27-9), 89-71

“We are unpredictable, and that’s what makes us dangerous,” Goshen head coach Stephanie Miller said. “We pass well, we get to the basket, and we play good defense.”

These Maple Leafs entered the 2016 championship with zero tournament wins in program history. Now, they have punched their ticket to the national semifinals on Monday, March 14, and will play the winner of No. 1 Southern Oregon (31-1) and No. 4 Tabor (28-7). ESPN3 live-streams the NAIA DII Women’s Basketball National Championship semis and finals. The Goshen vs. Southern Oregon/Tabor matchup tips off at 8:00 p.m. central time.

“We’ve thought for a while that we might be able to sneak in the back door,” Miller said. “This tournament suits us, we’re multifaceted.”

Goshen’s pressure and transition offense helped the Maple Leafs close the game on a 14-3 run over the final 2:45. The Maple Leafs outrebounded the Tigers 45-39, despite the size mis-match that Dakota Wesleyan brings to the table.

Dakota Wesleyan ran through junior forward Erica Herrold, as they have all season. Herrold tallied a game-high 23 points and nine rebounds. However, on the defensive end, the isolation game of Goshen, similar to that of an NBA team, Dakota Wesleyan head coach Jason Christensen said, proved to be too much for the Tigers defense.

“I call it an NBA system, they throw a couple passes and then they isolate ya,” Christensen said. “The biggest thing is they scored 40 points in the paint, and then we only average 18 to 20 in the paint,” Christensen said.

Gabby Williams provided a big post presence in the 3rd quarter, getting to the free-throw line three times in those ten minutes. Williams tallied six in the third quarter and finished with 14, the third-highest on her team. Goshen’s Jo’Mani Thomas scored a team-high 18 on 9 of 15 from the floor and a game-high 11 rebounds.

“Just doin’ what I know how to do,” Thomas said. Down the stretch, Thomas tallied eight of the 28 fourth-quarter Goshen points.

In the first two minutes, the game was tied at eight to eight, with three 3-pointers made. Two were banged home by Herrold, who finished the first half with 16 points on 4 of 9 shooting, 2 of 4 from beyond the arc and 6 of 6 from the free-throw line. Herrold tallied eight points in each quarter.

In the 2nd quarter, Goshen’s isolation post-game of Keshia Ward put the Maple Leafs up 38-31 with 35 seconds remaining. Ward’s production from the low-block accounted for seven 2nd-quarter points.

Olivet Nazarene stuns Indiana Wesleyan in final second

In perhaps the most exciting game thus far in the championship, the No. 1 Olivet Nazarene Tigers roared back from 16-down in the fourth quarter to crush the No. 4 Indiana Wesleyan Wildcats 86-84. Freshman Jess Learned hit the game-winning free-throws with 0.9 seconds left on the clock.

What set up the comeback for the Tigers was the tear senior guard Abbey Hengesbach went on in the second half. Entering the third quarter, Hengesbach had just 12 points. She finished with a 2016 tournament-high 39, including three 3-pointers in the fourth quarter.

“I gotta watch the film, I don’t know how it went from 17 to tied, that was just a blur,” Hengesbach said. “We started getting steals, and quick, easy lay-ups.”

Based on the style of play, a 26-13 first quarter score would seem to be in Olivet Nazarene’s favor. However, it was the Wildcats that jumped out to that big lead. Indiana Wesleyan’s shooting was lights out in the first, 8-11 from the floor. The Wildcats also forced some contested looks for the Tigers, who shot 5-21 in the first half, including 1-9 from three.

Indiana Wesleyan absolutely blasted Olivet Nazarene on the glass, out rebounding the Tigers 42-14 through three quarters, and 52-25 in the game. But, what negated that strong performance was the 37 turnovers Indiana Wesleyan coughed up.

“We had 18 turnovers in the first half, which is uncharacteristic of us,” Wildcats head coach Steve Brooks said. “I think it’s probably my fault, I kept a couple of kids on the floor too long and they got tired.”

Olivet Nazarene substitutes all five players every 30 to 90 seconds and provides full-court pressure for the entirety of the game. In addition to the pressure, the Tigers put up 81 shots in the game tonight. That style of play allows for runs, both in favor of the Tigers and the opposite. Nazarene head coach Lauren Stamatis trusts her system, even if the current group is on a large run.

“We just kind of stick with what we do, and it kind of fuels the next group coming in. The energy and the momentum, I think they just kind of feed off each other with that,” Stamatis said.

In the second quarter, Olivet Nazarene got back into a rhythm in the second, scoring 20 points and holding Indiana Wesleyan to just 15. When the first half buzzer sounded, the Tigers had pulled within eight, 41-33.

Olivet Nazarene moves on to the quarterfinals for the first time in program history, and will face the winner of Mount Marty and College of the Ozarks. Tip-off for that quarterfinal is set for Saturday at 8:00 p.m., and will decide the winner of the Cramer Bracket.

Morningside advances with blowout win over Cardinal Stritch

March 11, 2016Coming off a route of UC Merced, the defending-champs Morningside Mustangs crushed the Cardinal Stritch Wolves, 84-65.

Sophomore guard Madison Braun shouldered the load for the Mustangs, tallying 30 points. Most of her production came from beyond the arc, as she downed six 3-pointers on just seven attempts. Braun hit back to back threes inside of five minutes left in the third that pushed Morningside’s lead to 49-38. She rattled another at the 3:16 mark to extend Morningside’s lead to 18, 58-40.

“They went to the zone…..and kept triple-teaming [our posts], so then the posts would look to me and I’d be open out there,” Braun said.

Averaging just 11.8 points per game, Braun demonstrated the ability for Morningside to find multiple “go-to” scorers.

Normally, the Mustangs look to senior center Jessica Tietz, who entered today averaging 15.8 points per game and just shy of seven rebounds per game. However, she couldn’t seem to find the bottom of the net, hitting just one of her first four shots. She ended the game with just eight points, and fouled out inside of three minutes left to play.

Cardinal Stritch made mince-meat out of Lawrence Tech prior to facing Morningside, but the Wolves did not get anything easy against the defending champs. Midway through the second period, Stritch was tied with the Mustangs at 18 points a piece. But the Mustangs rattled off a 10-0 run and quickly pushed it to 28-18. The Wolves were able to climb their way back into the ball game, and trailed 60-49 with 8:10 left in the game.

“Anytime you’re gonna play the host school, it’s a daunting challenge,” Cardinal Stritch head coach John Pfaffl said. “My team was actually looking forward to playing the best. Ya know, how are you going to have a chance to be the best if you don’t play them first?”

Morningside’s championship demeanor showed itself in the last five minutes, as the Mustangs outscored the Wolves 23-16 in the fourth and shut the door on Cardinal Stritch’s season.

Stritch actually defeated Morningside in the quarter-final round in 2014, 82-71, so this game put a little bit more pressure on the Mustangs to not repeat that result.

“We just knew Cardinal Stritch was a good team and we would have to play well to beat ‘em,” Morningside head coach Jamie Sale said.

The Naismith Bracket final has been decided, and Morningside will square off with Marian on Saturday, March 12 at 3:00 p.m.

Marian barely holds off Oregon Tech, advances to quarter-finals

March 11, 2016As the old saying goes, “it ain’t over ‘til it’s over.” The No. 3 Marian University Knights nearly blew a 15-point lead in the fourth quarter when the Owls of Oregon Tech hustled their way back to within four with 1:20 left in the game. After and and-one bucket from Tess Armstrong, the Owls trailed 71-66 with 2.2 seconds left, however she missed the free throw. Marian’s Jenna Sullivan grabbed the rebound, the last of her game-high 10, and hit one of two free-throws to ice the game, 72-66.

“I think it was a little bit of complacency, maybe a little bit of nerves coming down the stretch when they started pressin’ us,” Marian head coach Katie Gearalds said. “We lost our heads a little bit defensively.”

This afternoon’s contest started slow, as neither team had scored until the 8:24 mark in the first quarter. However, once Marian guard Jessica Almeida hit a three from the right wing, both teams picked up the pace of play. After that shot, Marian sparked an 11-2 run that spanned one minute and 15 seconds and forced an Oregon Tech timeout with 6:39 left in the first quarter. Almeida finished with eight points on 3-11 from the floor.

Oregon Tech didn’t execute through three quarters, but turnovers and missed lay-ups by the Knights provided an opportunity for the Owls to get back into the game, and cut it to a six-point ball game with 5:22 left. Marian did not score until the 4:39 mark in the fourth quarter when Lakan Hasser-Smith hit a three from the right wing.

“We went to the 2-2-1 to kind of change tempo of the game, got a couple turnovers and some transition baskets, got a little momentum,” Oregon Tech head coach Scott Meredith said.

The Owls already found themselves in a similar situation in last night’s upset over the University of Jamestown, a game in which the Owls came back from a 13-point deficit. “We have been in that situation before, my girls just didn’t have any quit,” Meredith said. The win over Jamestown was the first at the national championship for the Owls.

Marian jumped all over Oregon Tech initially with a 2-3 zone that forced the Owls to commit 14 turnovers in the first half, and 21 in the game. However, the strong play of Morgan Roberts kept the Owls in it through two quarters. Roberts scored eight points o 4-5 shooting from the field in the first half, along with seven rebounds.

Anastacia Kirby had a fine first half for Marian. She tallied 10 points, but didn’t miss a shot. Roberts shot 3-3 from the field, 2-2 from 3-point range and 2-2 from the free-throw line through one half of play. Her two 3-pointers came on back-to-back possessions early in the second quarter. Hasser-Smith tallied a game-high 19 points for the Knights, 13 of which came in the second half.

With the victory, Marian University grabs a spot in the quarterfinals of the championship and will face the winner of No. 1 Morningside and No. 4 Cardinal Stritch on Saturday at 3:00 p.m.

“We have made it a point to come out here and make some noise and play as long as possible,” Gearalds said.

Dakota Wesleyan’s hot shooting downs Davenport

March 11, 2016In the second round of the Liston Bracket, the No. 2 Davenport Panthers took on the No. 3 seed Dakota Wesleyan Tigers. Dakota Wesleyan’s hot shooting pushed the Tigers to an 87-77 victory.

Dakota Wesleyan earns the first quarterfinal berth with the win, and faces the winner of No. 5 Goshen College and No. 1 Saint Xavier University.

When a team shoots 58 percent from the floor and 44 percent from three, it’s difficult to match that production. The Panthers couldn’t overcome the deficit they faced going into the fourth quarter, trailing by 12, 61-49. Dakota Wesleyan kept on rolling in the fourth, and smothered the Panthers in the final period, however was outscored 28-26 after a couple of late Davenport baskets cut the lead to 10.

This loss marks the second-consecutive second-round exit for the Panthers, both of which coming at the hands of Great Plains Athletic Conference schools.

“Obviously the GPAC is a strong conference, and they have a lot of, ya know, experience here at the tournament,” Davenport head coach Robyn Scherr-Wells said. “They’re also closer to home, they bring great fan support, they’re more in, ya know, their comfort zone.”

Normally, the 8:30 a.m. game lacks energy, yet Dakota Wesleyan’s students made the 155 mile trip from Mitchell, S.D., and provided an energy boost all game for the Tigers.

That energy helped Dakota Wesleyan jumped out to a hot start from downtown, hitting 4-5 from beyond the arc. The production from both Amber Bray and Kristin Sabers provided a huge boost for the Tigers. Both players scored eight points in the first quarter. Sabers finished with 14 points, and is just three shy of 1,000 for her career.

The Tigers led 45-37 at the break. The hot shooting carried over from the first quarter into the second, as the Tigers shot 58 percent (18-31) through the first two periods. With five minutes left in the first half, the Tigers were shooting 70 percent from the field. Not only was its overall shooting solid, Dakota Wesleyan buried six 3-pointers on 14 attempts in the first 20 minutes.

Amber Bray tallied seven third-quarter points to help push the lead to 61-49 after three. She finished with a game-high 21 points on 7-12 the floor to go along with a game-high eight rebounds.

Bray was not available for comment after the game, due to a “no-player-media” policy enforced by Dakota Wesleyan head coach Jason Christensen.

Davenport’s senior guard Alex Law kept the Panthers in the game, despite a faltering first-half performance from her team. Law tallied 13 first-half points, hitting 5 shots on 12 attempts, including three 3-pointers. She tied the game-high of 21 points, hitting eight shots on 22 attempts on the day, including four of 12 from downtown.

According to Christensen, he let his wife know that he “would let the dogs out” when he got home today, as he didn’t expect that strong of a performance by his team. “I just didn’t know that we could beat this team,” Christensen said. Not only did we beat them, we took it at them pretty well.”

Davenport coasted into the second round after blowing out Southeastern University in the second half. The Panthers surrendered 20 first-half points to Southeastern’s Christian Strawbridge, but still led 41-35 after two quarters. Strawbridge finished with 25 on the day. In the third, the Panthers went on a 26-12 run and blew the doors open. Davenport was led by junior Molly Babbs and senior Alex Law, each of whom tallied 16 points. The Panthers picked up an 81-64 victory.

In the case of Dakota Wesleyan, a 17-12 scoring margin in the fourth quarter kept the Haskell Indians from stealing an upset victory. The Tigers’ junior forward Erica Herrold dominated the game despite committing eight turnovers. She scored a game-high 27 on 8-17 from the field and 9-9 from the charity stripe.

Uchtman’s big night leads Ozarks over Friends

March 10, 2016Perennial powerhouse College of the Ozarks defeated Friends University 85-68 on Thursday to close out round one of the NAIA DII Women’s Basketball National Championship in Sioux City, Iowa.

Fifth-year senior forward Brandi Ucthman caught fire early from downtown, netting three 3-pointers in the first half, leading to 14 points. She averages a team-high 12.7 points per game on the season. Uchtman has made the trip to Sioux City in each of her five seasons with the Lady Bobcats, two of which ended in national runner up finishes (2012, 2014). With this being her senior campaign, she’s often needed to provide a solid performance in big games.

In tonight’s game, Uchtman did just that, finishing with a game-high 29 points on 10-15 from the floor, 3-7 from downtown, 6-8 from the free-throw line, and six rebounds.

“She’s really taking on that leadership role, she’s very unassuming… she’s just carried us this year,” Lady Bobcats head coach Becky Vest said.

Vest also noted the growth Uchtman has had in her time playing for Vest.

“She came in not having a lot of confidence in herself [as a freshman], and then here she is as a senior, Player of the Year in the A.I.I. conference, and then just went off tonight.”

As it normally does, the student section for College of the Ozarks made its presence felt, despite the late start time of 9:35 p.m. While the Lady Bobcats hail from Branson, Mo., which is 487 miles away from Sioux City, their fan base makes the trek each season to provide the team with a “home-court advantage” with its consistently loud chants and rockous volume after every Ozarks bucket.

“It gets you pumped up, and knowin’ that they take time out of school and work, sacrifice their academics,” Uchtman said.

For Friends, the bright lights and loud Ozarks crowd didn’t slow their pace. Junior guard Shann Sellers tallied a team-high nine points in the first half, and led a fast-paced attack that was only down 40-35 at halftime. She continued that strong production in the third quarter, where she netted another 13 points to bring her total to 22. Her effort was not enough, though, as she was held scoreless in the fourth quarter.

What helped Friends stay in the ball game through the first 30 minutes of play was their ability to get out and run in transition after forcing poor shots from distance.

“Well, they’re a team that just goes on runs, so we would go up 11, and they would come back and get it to within four,” Vest said. “They mix up their defenses, they’ll play man, they’ll play a 1-2-2, they’ll play a 1-3-1, a 2-3. . . in the first half we settled for a bunch of threes rather than letting the offense work.”

The Lady Bobcats will play 22-10 No. 3 seed Mount Marty in the second round of the Cramer Bracket. Both teams played late games tonight, and are slated for a 8:45 p.m. tip-off on Friday. In its first round game, Mount Marty defeated No. 6 Purdue Calumet 73-69. Alex Kneeland of Mount Marty tallied a tournament-high 34 points.

Indiana Wesleyan mounts huge comeback to beat Dickinson State

March 10, 2016Based on championship pedigree, the Wildcats of Indiana Wesleyan University should have easily handled the Blue Hawks of Dickinson State; however it took a strong second-half comeback for the Wildcats to put away the Blue Hawks, 68-58.

Dickinson State led 33-25 at the half, but midway through the third quarter, the Blue Hawks broke the game open and led 41-27 before a Wildcats timeout. That timeout stopped the Blue Hawk momentum, as the Wildcats answered with a 20-4 run to tie take the lead going into the fourth. Junior guard Kelsey Key hit a fadeaway 15-footer right before the buzzer to encapsulate the comeback. Key finished with 19 points and five rebounds.

“I think we just stayed confident in our offense, and we were just looking to attack,” Key said.

The Blue Jays came out firing in the first half, knocking down six of their first 12 shots and grabbing a six point lead at the 2:36 mark, forcing Brooks to call a thirty-second timeout. At the end of the first quarter, the Blue Jays led the Wildcats 14-9.

“That first half, we weren’t anywhere close to what we’re capable of being,” Indiana Wesleyan head coach Steve Brooks said.

Janniqua Thomas dominated the first half, tallying 19 of Dickinson ate’s 33 in the first half. Thomas shot 8-11 from the floor in just the first two periods, and continued her strong performance in the second half, as she finished with a game-high 24.

However, that offense production lacked down the stretch for Dickinson, and they were outscored 43-25 in the second half.

“I thought we really got out of sync,” Dickinson State head coach Mark Graupe said. “Janniqua had such a nice first half, and then they put a bigger girl on her, starting relying too much [on Janniqua], started telegraphing passes. I just felt we were really stagnant offensively.”

Graupe’s offense looked to be fluid through ten minutes of play, but once Thomas’ production dropped off, it opened up a window for the Wildcats. The next highest scorer for Dickinson State was Leslie Beaudoin with nine points. “What we couldn’t find today was that second scorer,” Graupe said.

Under head coach Steve Brooks, the Wildcats have posted a 441-124 overall record and earned two national titles, the first coming in 2007, and the second in 2013. Indiana Wesleyan has also made 14 straight championship appearances coming out of the Crossroads League. Indiana Wesleyan won the Crossroads League tournament title this season, posting a 68-64 victory over Marian University back on February 29.

As for the Blue Hawks, they posted a respectable 23-8 (9-3) record this season. After losing on a buzzer-beater to the University of Jamestown in the North Star Conference championship game on February 28, the Blue Hawks picked up one of the final at-large bids to make it to Sioux City. Dickinson State is back in the field for the first time since 2009, where it lost a 68-56 quarterfinal match to perennial power College of the Ozarks.

Indiana Wesleyan will play No. 1 Olivet Nazarene University on Friday, tip-off is set for 7:00 p.m.

Southern Oregon blasts Clarke, will face Briar Cliff in second round

March 10, 2016After posting a 29-1 (19-1) record this season, the No. 1 Southern Oregon Raiders bricked the No. 8 Clarke University Crusaders 85-63.

Southern Oregon started off with a 16-3 run in the first six minutes, and shot 6-9 from the floor in that span. Clarke was forced into two timeouts before the four-minute mark in the first quarter.

“The initial start really helped us. You get into a tournament game where nobody has really been on the floor yet, you got those ‘first-game jitters,’ for us to see a few shots go through helped settle us down,” Southern Oregon head coach Alex Carlson said.

Clarke’s second quarter proved to be much more productive than its first. The Crusaders cut the lead to ten midway through the second, and the Raiders led 33-23. However, that run was cut short, as the Raiders reestablished their half-court pressure. After two quarters, the Raiders had forced 17 Clarke turnovers and scored 11 off of those turnovers. Southern Oregon led 46-28 at the break.

Autumn Durand provided boots for the Raiders in points, rebounds and assists. The junior forward tallied 14 points on 6-8 from the floor, three rebounds and two assists in the first half. She finished with 21 points on 9-14 from the floor, 2-3 from 3-point range and 11 rebounds on the day.

“I’m happy with [the performance], I mean, you gotta be happy with it, I guess,” Durand said. “My teammates were just finding me really well, I guess. I shot the ball well.”

The Raiders didn’t just find Durand for open look, as they finished with 22 assists as a team. Senior guard Ashley Claussen led the charge in the dimes department with five.

Southern Oregon now owns nine appearances in the NAIA DII Women’s Basketball National Championship, with 2016 being its second since 2009. The Raiders have a 7-8 record in the tournament after today’s match.

The Crusaders have just one previous appearance in the championship (2015). Last season, they lost to then No. 1 Davenport 78-48 in the first round.

With the win, Southern Oregon moves on to the second round and will face No. 4 Briar Cliff University at 5:15 p.m. on Friday, March 11. Briar Cliff defeated No. 5 St. Ambrose 75-63.

“We gotta focus on ourselves, they do a lot of things well. . . they pressure the ball well,” Carlson said. “I think you’ll see two teams that can handle pressure, that will really get after it. . . it should be a high-scoring, fun game.”

Asbury spoils St. Francis’ first championship appearance

March 10, 2016Another upset occurred in the NAIA DII Women’s Basketball National Championship this morning, as the No. 7 Asbury Eagles dropped the No. 2 St. Francis Fighting Saints, 63-60.

With 12.3 seconds left, St. Francis’ Charnelle Reed had the opportunity to tie the game at 62, however traveled on prior to her shot attempt, giving Asbury the ball with its two-point lead in tact. Asbury senior guard Catie Fletcher then missed both free-throws on the other end with just 6.2 seconds remaining.

St. Francis’ Angelica Osukry missed a short-range left-hander with three seconds left. Asbury’s Kali Whiteside then hit one free throw to ice the game.

“We did a good job at fighting back, and putting ourselves in position [to win],” Saints head coach Samantha Quigley said. “I think, overall, we did a great job of getting ourselves back in the game.”

The Eagles closed the first quarter on a 7-1 run, and led 19-10 after the first quarter. Asbury added to its lead with two quick scores from Cassidy Flynn and Brittany Warren.

Warren led the way for the Eagles, tallying 17 points on 5-15 shooting, including 3-5 from beyond the arc. Warren also grabbed four rebounds.

“I’ve been trying to shoot more ‘kick-out’ threes,” Warren said. “Usually I can square up, and those are the threes I made today.”

Asbury University entered today’s game with just one championship appearance in school history, however jumped out to a strong start against No. 2 seed University of St. Francis (Ill.).

“We knew that if we got ahead, that Saint Francis was going to come with some pretty intense full-court pressure,” Asbury coach Tim Brown said. “The key today was just to play Asbury basketball.”

St. Francis answered Asbury’s hot start with a run of its own, scoring nine straight points on the Eagles before Tim Brown called a timeout with 2:50 remaining in the first half. At that point, the Saints had cut the score to 29-16. With that run, St. Francis played its way back into the game late in the second quarter, but trailed 31-23 at the break.

Saints’ senior guard Alexis Brown tallied six points in the third quarter, including a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from the left corner that cut the deficit to just three, 49-46. Brown carried that production into the fourth, as she scored another six of her 20 points; two of which came on a steal at midcourt that led to a fastbreak layup and cut the Asbury lead to 61-60.

When talking about the momentum boost Brown’s buzzer-beater gave the team heading into the fourth, Alexis Brown said, “It was everything.”

Saint Francis earned their first bid to the NAIA DII Women’s Basketball National Championship this season with a 28-4 (17-2) record. The Saints play in the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference, which sent four other teams to Sioux City: Cardinal Stritch, Olivet Nazarene, St. Ambrose and Purdue Calumet.

Asbury made just its third appearance in the history of the program, and the Eagles posted a 23-9 (16-2) record under first year coach Tim Brown.

The Eagles will face No. 3 Tabor College at 3:30 p.m. on Friday, November 11.

Marian handles Milligan, hopes to avenge last season’s early exit

March 9, 2016Following the “Parade of Champions” festivities, a ceremony in which each team in the field is recognized by the NAIA and city of Sioux City, the No. 3 Marian Knights beat the No. 6 Milligan Buffaloes 76-59.

Marian controlled the pace of the game from the jump, and maintained that control throughout. At the half, the Knights led the rebounding battle 22-19, and the turnover battle 9-13. What really helped Marian establish the early lead was their field goal percentage. The Knights shot 17-34 in the first half, while the Buffaloes shot just 10-30.

Marian head coach Katie Gearalds noted that despite the large margin of victory, she made an effort to keep her team engaged until the final buzzer, “Milligan is one of the top 32 teams in the country, they’re ranked 24th.”

Perhaps the biggest reason for the strong shooting was Marian’s ability to get to the rim, as the Knights tallied 38 points in the paint, as well as 29 points from the bench.

“They created some easy baskets off their defense in the first half,” Milligan head coach Rich Aubrey said. “Especially in the first half, they were able to turn their defense into offense and get some easy buckets in transition.”

Senior guard Lakan Hasser-Smith took control of the game early, netting eight of the first 11 Marian points. Her production helped the Knights jump out to a 22-13 lead through one. The Knights also picked up 10 from sophomore Kellie Kirkhoff, and led 40-27 at the half. Kirkhoff amassed 15 points on 6-11 shooting in the game along with five rebounds and four assists.

Hasser-Smith finished with a game-high 24 points on 10-18 shooting from the floor and team-high seven rebounds.

“I knew that basically, we had to come out and be really aggressive,” Hasser-Smith said.

Millgan freshman forward Sarah Robinson provided more than her fair share in both points and boards, as she finished with 18 points and a game-high nine rebounds in the loss.

With tonight’s matchup, Marian made its third appearance in the championship in program history. However, the Knights haven’t made it past the second round of the tournament. Last season, the Knights earned a No. 2 seed, but were bounced in the first round by then No. 7 seed Tabor College. Tabor is a 3-seed in this year’s championship.

“The Tabor t-shirt that we exchanged has been with me in my possession since that game,” Gearalds said. “It’s actually in the hotel room right now, I brought it with us.”

The Knights look to keep that motivation moving on in the championship. Marian moves on to the second round to face the winner of No. 2 Jamestown University and No. 7 Oregon Tech. That game is scheduled to tip at 12:00 p.m. on Friday, March 11.

Cardinal Stritch buries Lawrence Tech

March 9, 2016Game one of the Naismith Bracket featured a low-scoring affair between No. 4 Cardinal Stritch Wolves and No. 5 Lawrence Tech Blue Devils. Cardinal Stritch won the game 82-52.

Lawrence Tech found itself in trouble from the start, and was on the wrong end of a 14-2 run that spanned the first five minutes of the ball game, which quickly became a 18-2 run before a Lawrence Tech timeout. Head coach Mary Pinkowski called three timeouts in the first quarter, and picked up a technical foul with 7:47 remaining in the first. Pinkowski picked up her second technical foul with 1:05 left in the second quarter, and was ejected from the contest.

At times, ejections can spark energy for teams, however Lawrence Tech never really came out of its initial funk. The Blue Devils trailed 24-8 after the first quarter, and sent the Wolves to the line often. Cardinal Stritch finished the game 14-21 from the free-throw line. A high point for the Blue Devils is their ability to draw fouls as well; they shot 14-22 from the charity stripe.

For Cardinal Stritch, scoring came easy and often, despite their poor shooting from downtown. The Wolves were able to drive the lane and finish throughout the game. Stritch’s ability to create easy shots led to 66 shot attempts, which it converted 33 of them. Lawrence Tech shot a poor 29 percent from the floor, 17-51.

Neither team shot well from the 3-point line, as the Wolves managed just 2-13 from deep, and for the Blue Devils, 4-14.

Stritch senior forward Monica Hinderer led all scorers with 20 points. She shot 8-10 from the floor and grabbed eight rebounds.

For Lawrence Tech, senior Hali Butler led the team in both points and rebounds, tallying 13 and nine, respectively.

The Wolves will face the winner of No. 1 overall seed Morningside College and No. 8 UC Merced on Friday, March 11, at 1:45 p.m.

Games one through four in the NAIA DII Women’s Basketball National Championship featured teams in the Liston Bracket, while games five through eight featured the teams in the Naismith Bracket.

Noel hits shot at buzzer to lift No. 5 Goshen over No. 4 Concordia

March 9, 2016After a loss to Morningside College in the finals of last year’s championship, the No. 4 seed Concordia Bulldogs lost on a last-second shot to the No. 5 seed Goshen Maple Leafs, by a score 85-82.

Lynnia Noel hit a right-wing 3-pointer to win the game for the Maple Leafs after a Concordia turnover gave Goshen the possession with 5.3 seconds left. Noel finished with 13 points on the day.

“We had 10 seconds left, and we just wanted to make sure we got the best shot possible,’ Noel said. “Me and my point guard, Sophie Sears, when she is dribbling, I always know where she is, and she always knows where I am, so we always have that connection, and when I shot it, I was calm and relaxed.”

Goshen’s final play was actually designed for Sears to drive the ball and score on a layup, but Concordia collapsed in the paint, freeing up Noel for the jump shot.

“[Sears] did a great job reading the situation, not trying to force that shot and reading the situation,” Goshen head coach, Stephanie Miller, said.

Concordia head coach Drew Olson noted his mistake postgame, “I thought they would be in their 1-3-1 zone. . .they came out in man, I didn’t say anything, it’s my fault.”

With 24.3 seconds to go, Concordia’s Shelby Quinn hit two free throws to put the Bulldogs up 82-80; and with 10.3, Goshen’s Gabby Williams hit a turnaround shot in the post to tie it up. Olson’s plan was to throw a lob to a cutting Quinn Wragge, but the pass sailed over her head and out of bounds.

Olson and the Bulldogs often look to the freshman forward Wragge, who leads the team with 14.5 points per game. In today’s matchup, Wragge camped out under the basket and caused problems for Goshen in the second half. Her movement away from the ball opened up passing lanes for her teammates, along with putback opportunities. Wragge scored 22 points on 10-15 shooting, pulled down 10 rebounds, but shot only 4-11 from the free-throw line.

“What makes [Wragge] tough is the matchup issue she creates because of her size, but her ability to move like a guard,” Miller said. “What we started to do is push her off the line a little bit, so that if she was coming down, we would double-team.”

Concordia’s drive and kick game allowed the 3-point shot to open up, but the Bulldogs struggled to capitalize in the first half, shooting just 2-12 from downtown. They were able to make up the difference near the basket, scoring 24 inside the paint.

“The gameplan was to make sure they weren’t sinking us before they got the shots, because from everything I’ve seen, they do a great job shooting threes,” Miller said.

Goshen spread the ball around, as six players found the scoring column and senior guard Tyra Carver and senior center Keshia Ward each tallied 10 points. Carver finished with 17, Ward with 14. Junior forward Gabby Williams added 19 points and nine rebounds for the Maple Leafs.

Concordia is no stranger to the championship, as they reached the finals last season before falling to conference foe Morningside College. The challenge the Bulldogs faced this season was replacing the production of alumnas Tracy Peitz and Bailey Morris.

“Even last year, I don’t think we thought ‘hey, we are going to the championship game,’ I don’t think those are ever real expectations,” Olson said. “You get to the national tournament, take it game by game, and see how the matchups go.”

Today’s win marks the first in the national championship in program history for the Maple Leafs. They play Crossroads League, a conference that often produces strong teams come March. Indiana Wesleyan won the 2012-2013 title, and the University of St. Francis cut down the nets in 2013-2014.

Goshen will face the winner of No. 1 St. Xavier and No. 8 Tennessee Wesleyan on Friday, March 11, at 10:15 a.m.

Tigers Hang on against the Haskell Indians

March 9, 2016To kick off the 2016 NAIA DII Women’s Basketball National Championship, the Dakota Wesleyan Tigers defeated the Haskell Indians 75-64.

Dakota Wesleyan entered halftime with a 14 point lead, but Haskell sparked a run in the third quarter and trailed 58-52 after three. With just under five minutes, Dakota Wesleyan led 60-58.

“We started with a turnover, and then we got a rebound and had another turnover,” Tigers head coach Jason Christensen said. “Turnovers just kill you.”

Despite finishing with 21 turnovers, the Tigers managed to take back control of the game with a 15-6 run in the last five minutes. The Tigers were led by junior forward Erica Herrold, who tallied nine fourth quarter points, and finished with 27 points on 8-17 shooting from the floor, and 9-9 from the free-throw line. Christensen noted that keeping Herrold in the game with four fouls was a gamble that paid off in the final minutes.

Junior center Keli Warrior, who tallied 18 points and five boards, picked up her fourth foul with 2:52 left in the third quarter, but sophomore forward Tyler Sumpter picked up the scoring load, amassing nine of her 19 points in the second half.

When talking about Warrior, Haskell head coach Shane Flanagan said “I think she wore down, I could only keep her in for so long because she had to battle on the inside with their players.”

Haskell started off strong, using a mixture of full-court pressure and half-court traps to keep the pressure on the Tigers, but gave up too many baskets at the rim in the second half, and entered the break trailing 44-30.

After placing second in the Great Plains Athletic Conference (GPAC) tournament, the Dakota Wesleyan Tigers earned a No. 3 seed in this year’s championship. As for the Haskell Indians, they defeated No. 2 seed College of the Ozarks in the Association of Independent Institutions (AII) tournament on February 28, and earned a No. 6 seed. The Tigers lost in the GPAC finals to No. 1 overall seed Morningside College on March 1.

Three players for the Indians, Keli Warrior, Cerissa Honena-Reyes and Arnetia Begay, earned All-Tournament Team honors for the AII.

For the Tigers, Erica Herrold earned First-Team All-GPAC honors, while Ashley Bray and Kristin Sabers earned Second-Team All-GPAC. Amber Bray and Rylie Osthus earned Honorable Mention All-GPAC honors.

In recent years, a No. 7 seed has upset a No. 2 seed in the 8:30 a.m. game, however no No. 2 seeds have drawn this game this year. Instead, it’s been replaced with a No. 3 vs. No. 6 matchup, with No. 3 Tabor College and No. 6 Hastings College tipping off at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday. The Tigers play another 8:30 a.m. game on Friday, March 11, as they will play the winner of Davenport University and Southeastern University.



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