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Kim Johnson scores 35 points, but Tiger women lose to Red Raiders

Dakota Wesleyan guard Amanda Hart dribbles the ball up court as she is guarded by the Red Raiders' Karen Hutson during a women's college game Wednesday at the Corn Palace in Mitchell. (Aaron Saunders/Republic )

With roughly seven minutes to go Wednesday, the Dakota Wesleyan University fans at the Corn Palace in Mitchell were buzzing about the Tigers' 10-point lead on 10th-ranked Northwestern.

Seven minutes later, as the buzzer sounded, the Tigers had fallen to their Great Plains Athletic Conference foe 87-81. The DWU fans were stunned silent.

"We did not finish down the stretch," DWU coach Jason Christensen said. " ... We had crucial turnovers toward the end of the game. I don't know if we tightened up, if we were nervous, I don't know if it was the wooden-neck tie syndrome. ... We have to learn to finish games if we want to be in the national tournament."

The Tigers (19-10, 10-9 GPAC) were in a hole early in the first half. Northwestern (20-6, 14-5 GPAC) jumped out to an 11-3 lead in the first four minutes. The Red Raiders were led by Huron native Samantha Kleinsasser, who scored six of the team's first 13 points. But the DWU women slowly battled back and went on an 8-0 run to get within four points. The Tigers went on another run in a matter of minutes; this time, it was an 11-6 run and it tied the game up at 24 with six minutes left in the first half.

During that span, DWU forward Kim Johnson scored nine points, senior guard Brittany Hills scored four and junior guard Amanda Hart hit a 3-pointer.

By half's end, Johnson had 20 points and Dakota Wesleyan was up 40-39.

"When the ball is falling in, it seems like everything works, and when you have a team that keeps getting it to you, that helps a lot," Johnson said. "We knew they were going to double down, so right away I had a couple of dishes and (Brittany) Hills made some good cuts."

Coming out of the half, DWU stretched its one-point lead to five points with the help of Hills, who scored the Tigers' first five points.

Hills finished the game with 17 points; 11 came in the second half.

Johnson scored 15 points in the second half and finished with a career-high 35 points on 13-of-23 shooting.

"I would trade all the points for a win," Johnson said. "They are a great team, but we had momentum with us. ... They battled back and we didn't handle it well."

Northwestern's Kendra De Jong almost matched Johnson in points. The senior forward finished with a double-double, scoring 30 points -- 14 from the free-throw line -- and grabbing 19 rebounds.

De Jong, along with Kleinsasser, who finished with 16 points, controlled the paint for the Red Raiders as they outrebounded DWU 44-30.

DWU hosts ninth-ranked Briar Cliff in the final game of the regular season. Tipoff is scheduled for 6:30 p.m.



NW (20-6, 14-5)

Paige O'Neal 0-4 4-4 4, Karen Hutson 7-16 2-4 16, Alli Dunkelberger 1-8 0-0 2, Samantha Kleinsasser 6-12 3-5 16, Kendra De Jong 8-14 14-20 30, Mackenizie Small 8-12 0-2 17, Cassidy Breon 1-2 0-0 2, Ashley Williamson 0 0-0 0. Totals: 31-68 22-35 87.

DWU (19-10, 10-9)

Elizabeth Lamb 0-1 3-4 3, Taylor Piper 0-3 3-4 3, Amanda Hart 5-14 4-4 18, Brittany Hills 6-8 4-4 17, Kim Johnson 13-23 6-8 35, Lexie Christensen 0-0- 0-0 0, Celeste Beck 2-7 0-0 5, Katie Johnson 0-2 0-0 0. Totals: 26-58 20-24.

Halftime: DWU: 40-39. 3-point goals NC 2 (Kleinsasser, Small), DWU 9 (Hart 4, Johnson 3, Beck, Hills). Rebounds: NW 44 (De Jong 19), DWU 30 (Johnson 6). Assists: NW 18 (O'Neal 5, Hutson 5), DWU 21 (Lamb 4, Beck 4, Ka. Johnson 4). Steals: NW 6 (Hutson 4), DWU 2 (Hart, Ka. Johnson). Turnovers: NW 9, DWU 12. Total fouls: NW 21, DWU 25. Technical fouls: none.