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DWU women upset No. 3 Northwestern 97-76

DWU assistant coach Sam Sikkink, front, and head coach Jason Christensen, back, congratulate players after the Tigers beat No. 3 Northwestern College Wednesday at the Corn Palace in Mitchell. (Aaron Saunders/Republic)2 / 2

Dakota Wesleyan women’s basketball coach Jason Christensen voice was so hoarse he could barely speak after his team’s matchup with No. 3 Northwestern College Wednesday at the Corn Palace.

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But it was worth it, as the Tigers upset the Red Raiders 97-76 for what Christensen called the biggest win of his career.

“They are number three and we have never beat Northwestern,” Christensen said. “For the seniors, this was one of their goals and I am happy for them. We have been so close and they were so deserving of this win.”

The Tigers (17-11, 9-9 GPAC) had been in a funk for the last three weeks, having dropped five of their last six coming into the matchup against Great Plains Athletic Conference foe Northwestern.

But the Tigers sent seniors Amanda Hart, Kim Johnson, Micaela Erickson and Taylor Piper out with a win in their last game at the Corn Palace.

“This gives us a signature win on our record,” junior forward Katie Johnson said. “We have been so close so many times and just couldn’t come away with the win. But we made sure that one call couldn’t make or break us down the stretch.” Katie Johnson did her part to help the Tigers secure the victory with 11 rebounds and 14 points for her fifth double-double of the season. The junior forward did most of her damage in the first half where she scored 10 points.

With the help of Katie Johnson and Alexandria native Hart, who scored 12 first-half points, the Tigers were able to build a 49-33 lead at halftime. Hart connected on four 3-pointers — all in the first half — and finished with 18 points. Hart also had five assists.

First-half play has routinely been solid for the Tigers, who have recently struggled holding onto leads. Christensen said he was happy that his players put together a complete game when they needed it most.

Wesleyan did it by holding the GPAC’s leading scorer Alli Engebretson to 13 points on 5-of-16 shooting. Coming into the game Engebretson was averaging 18.7 points per game. Karen Hutson led Northwestern with a team-high 17 points Wednesday.

Free-throw shooting also proved to be vital for DWU as it finished 26-of-27 from the line. The Tigers were 14-of-29 from the field in the opening half and 15-of-16 from the free-throw line. Junior guard Celeste Beck was 6-of-6 from the line en route to scoring a game-high 20 points.

Senior forward Kim Johnson drained all four free throws she took and and scored 12 points and grabbed seven rebounds. Dimock native and DWU freshman forward Erica Herrold also added 12 points.

Northwestern (22-3, 14-3 GPAC) tried to get back in the game In the second half by upping its defensive pressure, but the Tigers responded by pushing their lead to 27 points. The Red Raiders started to make a comeback with just over seven minutes to go in the game, but it was too little too late.

“They came out punching and fired up and ready to attack,” Northwestern coach Chris Yaw said. “They got to the free-throw line by being aggressive and we were a little bit passive. They built confidence from that and had many other shots go in as well.”

Dakota Wesleyan 97

Northwestern College 76

DWU (17-11, 9-9 GPAC)

Taylor Piper 3-3 2-2 8; Amanda Hart 6-13 2-2 18; Celeste Beck 6-8 6-6 20; Kim Johnson 4-10 4-4 12; Katie Johnson 4-8 6-6 14; Savannah Minder 1-1 0-0 2; Micaela Erickson 0-2 0-0 0; Erica Herrold 4-6 3-4 12; Kelsey Little 1-1 1-1 3; Taylor Kuhn 0-0 0-0 0; Kristin Sabers 2-4 2-2 6; Kendra Cheeseman 0-1 0-0 0; Lexy Jo Deneke 1-1 0-0 2; team totals: 32-58 26-27 97.

NC (22-3, 14-3 GPAC)

Paige O’Neal 2-4 0-0 4; Karen Huston 8-14 1-7 17; Alli Engebretson 5-16 2-2 13; Mackenzie Small 4-13 2-2 11; Samantha Kleinsasser 3-11 0-0 7; Whitney Vander Maten 3-6 3-4 10; Katy Kuiper 0-1 0-0 0; Morgan VanDerSloot 1-3 0-0 3; Dana Weerheim 2-2 0-0 5; Jacie White 0-0 1-2 1; Madison Yohe 0-0 0-0 0; Arianne Gesell 1-1 1-2 3; Caitlyn Van Es 1-1 0-0 2; team totals: 30-72 10-19 76.

Halftime: 49-33 DWU; 3-point goals: DWU 7-17 (Hart 4, Beck 2, Herrold), NC 6-22 (Engebretson, Small, Kleinsasser, Vander Maten, VanDerSloot, Weerheim); Rebounds: DWU 43 (Ka. Johnson 11), NC 30 (Engebretson 5); Assists: DWU 23 (Ki. Johnson 7), NC 16 (Small 4); Steals: DWU 7 (Piper 3), NC 10 (Small 4); Turnovers: DWU 19, NC 14; Team fouls: DWU 15, NC 21; Foul outs: None; Technical fouls: None.