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Road-weary Tigers capture GPAC opener

Dakota Wesleyan's Makaela Karst looks for an open teammate against Northwestern College's Darbi Gustafson on Wednesday at the Corn Palace. (Ryan Deal / Republic)

Running on fumes, the No. 2 Dakota Wesleyan University women's basketball team found a way to finish on Wednesday.

The Tigers were playing their fourth game in five days and returned to Mitchell at 4:15 a.m. after playing at Division I No. 13 Iowa on Tuesday. But none of that mattered as DWU edged No. 8 Northwestern College 76-73 at the Corn Palace in a critical early-season Great Plains Athletic Conference contest.

"We are running on about three hours of sleep," junior forward Sarah Carr said. "So I think this was a good win for us."

Wednesday's game was originally scheduled to be played in Orange City, Iowa, but a scheduling conflict moved it to the Corn Palace.

"I am pretty proud of this group for the toughness they showed because that's a quality team," DWU coach Jason Christensen said. "They are very good. They are a top-10 team as far as I am concerned and we showed a lot of toughness."

Carr netted a career-high 27 points and Kynedi Cheeseman tossed in 26 points to power the Tigers (4-0, 1-0 GPAC) to the victory.

"We knew for sure that playing Northwestern is a pretty big game just because we think they are probably one of the best teams in the GPAC," Cheeseman said. "So coming out with a win is pretty big for us."

The junior duo helped the Tigers close things out in the fourth quarter. DWU led 63-59 entering the final frame, but a quick 4-0 Northwestern spurt knotted it up at 63-63. The lead changed hands three times, but a Cheeseman 3-pointer gave DWU a 71-69 advantage with three-minutes and 32 seconds left. The shot just beat the 24-second shot clock buzzer.

"We kept moving the ball and kept finding the right person," Christensen said. "Kynedi was the last person on that and that was a huge shot."

Exactly one minute later, Carr nailed a 3-pointer and DWU led 74-69 with 2:32 left. Cheeseman added two free throws with seven seconds left for a 76-73 margin. Northwestern College's Kassidy De Jong game-tying 3-pointer as time expired was no good.

Carr added 10 rebounds and finished 12-for-20 from the field. She also defended Northwestern's post tandem of Ethan graduate Darbi Gustafson and Haley Birks.

"I was proud of her the way that she came out and played," Christensen said. "She just played with confidence tonight. That's the thing with Sarah is she just came out and played with a lot of confidence and when she does that, she's dangerous."

Birks finished with 20 points, while Gustafson had 12 points for the Red Raiders (3-1, 0-1 GPAC).

Freshman Sydney Halling had 10 points and five rebounds for DWU. Madison Mathews nailed three 3-pointers, including a contested trey to beat the halftime buzzer. The Tigers trailed 36-34 at halftime.

The contest remained tight in the second half before DWU pulled ahead by six points entering the fourth quarter and it closed it out from there.

"We had four games in five days," Christensen said. "That's not easy to do and we did it."

Dakota Wesleyan travels to Midland University on Saturday.

Dakota Wesleyan University 76, Northwestern College 73

Northwestern College (3-1, 0-1 GPAC): Breana Schuiteman 2-6 2-2 6, Sammy Blum 3-5 0-0 8, Kassidy De Jong 5-16 0-0 13, Darbi Gustafson 5-12 2-3 12, Haley Birks 6-11 8-8 20, Taylor VanderVelde 0-0 0-0 0, Jada Cunningham 1-4 0-0 2, Alexis Toering 6-10 0-1 12, Kailyn Groves 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 28-64 12-14 73.

Dakota Wesleyan (4-0, 1-0 GPAC): Rylie Osthus 0-7 0-0 0, Madison Mathews 3-6 0-0 9, Makaela Karst 0-4 0-0 0, Kynedi Cheeseman 7-14 8-9 26, Sarah Carr 12-20 1-2 27, Kaylee Kirk 0-3 4-4 4, Sydney Halling 3-5 4-5 10, Meghan Travis 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 25-59 17-20 76.\

NC 17 36 57 73

DWU 18 34 63 76

3-point field goals: NC 5-17 (Schuiteman 0-3, Blum 2-4, De Jong 3-7, Birks 0-1, Cunningham 0-1, Toering 0-1); DWU 9-17 (Mathews 3-5, Cheeseman 4-7, Carr 2-5). Rebounds: NC 30 (De Jong 16); DWU 32 (Carr 10). Steals: NC 8 (Toering 3); DWU 8 (Halling 3). Assists: NC 13 (Cunningham 4); DWU 12 (Halling 3). Blocked shots: NC 4 (Gustafson 2); DWU 2 (Cheeseman 1, Carr 1). Turnovers: NC 12; DWU 15. Total fouls: NC 23; DWU 16.