Listen to the game here.
MITCHELL, S.D. – This wasn’t just an ordinary regular-season game in the middle of December. In a Saturday (Dec. 15) contest that could ultimately help decide the GPAC regular-season title, the third-ranked Concordia University women’s basketball team quieted the Corn Palace by making the big plays down the stretch. The rematch of the 2018 NAIA Division II women’s basketball national championship game amounted to an 82-68 win for the third-ranked Bulldogs over No. 1 Dakota Wesleyan.
Thirteenth-year head coach Drew Olson’s squad has now triumphed in each of its last two trips to the Corn Palace. Concordia moved to 12-1 overall and to 8-1 in conference play.
“You want to beat the top teams in the conference if you’re going to win conference, but I’m just happy we’re getting better each day,” Olson said. “I was really pleased with our bench group. They came in and played with great confidence. Just overall really pleased with our improvement.”
Olson displayed a calmness about his group heading into Saturday’s big clash that featured a renewal of a blossoming rivalry. His team backed up that quiet confidence. Many times in recent years, the Bulldogs have gotten past the Tigers in classics that have gone wire-to-wire. This particular go-round did not require such nervousness. In the sequence that broke Dakota Wesleyan’s back, All-American Philly Lammers emerged.
A 7-0 fourth-quarter Tiger run chopped the Concordia lead to 68-63 and brought the Corn Palace to life. With a chance to draw even closer, Dakota Wesleyan had its next two shots blocked by Lammers, who then muscled in two on the other end. Taylor Cockerill followed with another bucket and the air had come out of the balloon for the host team. The Bulldogs led 72-63 with under 2:30 to play.
Concordia downplayed the revenge factor coming into this weekend, but this one still feels pretty good.
“All of us were pretty excited for this game knowing what happened last season,” Cockerill said. “We definitely focused on our finals early in the week, but then later in the week we made sure we were ready for the game. We watched film and had some good practices. We were excited for today.”
This matchup was a case of 10 versus seven. Olson shortened his bench to 10 while regularly subbing five-for-five. On the other side, the Tigers (13-1, 8-1 GPAC) used only two reserves. It was no surprise that the Bulldogs wanted to push the pace. Sometimes the result was uncontested layups for Dakota Wesleyan, but it also helped open up Concordia’s perimeter shooting.
After an early 25-16 deficit, the Bulldogs exploded by going 6-for-9 from 3-point range in the second quarter on the way to taking a 44-37 lead to the break. Cockerill put up 11 of her 19 points in the second period. She netted 4-of-6 3-point tries for the game. As a team, Concordia went 14-for-33 from deep with the likes of Elsie Aslesen, Colby Duvel, Mackenzie Koepke and Taryn Schuette all getting into the act.
It was a workmanlike day for Lammers, who posted a line of 10 points, 13 rebounds and six blocked shots. At the point, junior Grace Barry turned in another fine day. She equaled Cockerill for a team high 19 points. She added four assists and four steals.
“Our kids shot really well with good confidence,” Olson said. “They are such a good defensive team with good help side. I thought our kids did a good job early on of picking them apart and figuring out where to go with the ball. Late in the game we got a little more passive, which is another thing to work on.”
Sarah Carr has stepped into a starting role this season. She topped Dakota Wesleyan with 19 points to go along with five rebounds. Star Kynedi Cheeseman notched 17 points (5-for-14 from field) and nine rebounds. The Tigers were held to 38.6 percent shooting.
The Bulldogs will now be idle until appearing at the Arizona Christian Holiday Classic in Phoenix, Ariz., Dec. 27-28. Concordia will take on host Arizona Christian University on the first day of the classic before going head-to-head with second-ranked Southeastern University (Fla.) on day two. Conference play will resume after New Year’s Day.