SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - The (S3) Concordia University women's basketball team (24-8) advances to the NSIC/Sanford Health Tournament championship with a 78-66 win over (S5) Sioux Falls (14-15). The Golden Bears will face (N2) Northern State (24-5) in the final game of the tournament on Tuesday night at 5 p.m.
The Golden Bears grinded out the win as they got to the free throw line 37 times for the game, hitting 25 of them. Ball control was once again the story as the Golden Bears put together their second straight game with four or less turnovers while committing no more than two in a any half during that stretch. The Golden Bears only forced nine turnovers for USF but were opportunistic in those turnovers as they had an 11-2 advantage on points off turnovers.
Anika Whiting had a huge night for Concordia with 25 points and 12 rebounds. It was her third 25-10 game on the season as she hit 9-19 shots and 5-6 free throws.
Ameshia Kearney and Rachel Hansen picked up much of the rest of the scoring load with 19 points apiece. Kearney had a career-high eight boards as she nearly picked up her first career double-double. Hansen pulled in six rebounds as she got to the free throw line a staggering 16 times.
Laura Johnson double-doubled with 15 points and 12 rebounds for USF and Taylor Varsho added 15 points, five rebounds and five assists. Sioux Falls hit 38.7% of their shots for the game.
Neither team shot the ball well for much of the opening half with neither team shooting above 30% until the closing minutes. The Golden Bears made up for it by getting to the charity stripe early and often. The lead exchanged hands four time along with two ties in the first six minutes with the two teams feeling each other out a bit. Taylor Varsho hit a three for USF at the 14:41 mark to give Sioux Falls an 8-6 advantage, but CU responded with a 6-0 run to regain the lead at 12-8. The Golden Bears spent the rest of the half maintaining a steady lead until the half. Wolyniec scored four straight points with just about a minute to play in the half to give Concordia their largest lead of the half at eight. The Cougars hit a three at the other end and Whiting hit a layup on an out of bounds play at the buzzer to give us a halftime score of 35-28.
Whiting led all scorers with 13 points at the half.
The Golden Bears started to pull away near the midpoint of the second half. USF had the lead down to four before an 8-0 CU run gave the Golden Bears their first double digit lead at 48-36. The lead steadily grew for the rest of the game, topping out at 19 at 78-59 with 2:52 to go in the game. The Cougars scored the game's final seven points to give us a final score of 78-66.
Both teams responded by shooting much better in the second half with the Golden Bears knocking down 48.4% of their shots while the Cougars hit 43.8% of theirs.
Concordia will make their seventh appearance in the NSIC championship game, holding a record of 3-3 in their previous six trips. The Golden Bears previously won it in 2005, 2007 and 2008. Northern State lost their only trip to the championship in 2006.
CU holds a 13-18 record in the all-time series with NSU. The Wolves won the only meeting of the year on January 11th 61-59 in Aberdeen.
Courtesy: Concordia-St. Paul Patrick Rydeen