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DWU women hold on to down Concordia, clinch home GPAC quarterfinal

Trailing 65-64, the Tigers closed the game on a 7-2 spurt over the final 2 1/2 minutes.

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Dakota Wesleyan University's Isabel Ihnen (30) goes up for a basket as Concordia University's Sadie Powell tries to defend during a Great Plains Athletic Conference game on Saturday, February 19, 2022 at the Corn Palace.
Matt Gade/Mitchell Republic

MITCHELL — Entering Saturday’s final regular-season contest, the postseason scenarios were pretty simple for the Dakota Wesleyan women’s basketball team. Win and host a Great Plains Athletic Conference quarterfinal, lose and pack for a playoff road trip.

The Tigers chose the former.

Though pushed late, the Tigers trailed for just 36 seconds in the game — all in the fourth quarter — earning a top-four seed in the conference tournament with a 71-67 win over Concordia in a GPAC contest Saturday afternoon at the Corn Palace.

In the teams’ first meeting on Jan. 8 in Seward, Nebraska, Concordia controlled the contest, leading for more than 34 minutes as the Bulldogs handed the Tigers their most lopsided loss of the season at 90-58.

Early on, Saturday felt like a far cry from the first matchup, as DWU got out to a fast start, running the score to 21-6 in the late stages of the first quarter, but the Bulldogs slowly chipped away until it was 36-29 at halftime.

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The Bulldogs continued to pull themselves back after halftime, eventually tying the game for the first time at 48-all with just over three minutes remaining in the third quarter, but DWU inched back into the lead at 53-50 heading into the fourth.

With 3:10 left to play, Taysha Rushton banked in a deep 3-point jump shot to give Concordia its first lead at 65-64. It appeared for a moment as though Concordia had come all the way back to steal the win and a home playoff game, but when it needed it most, DWU’s GPAC-leading scoring defense clamped down.

After Concordia took the lead, the Tigers allowed just two points the rest of the way, with Matti Reiner blocking a Rushton layup attempt with 15 seconds remaining that would’ve tied the game had it fallen.

The Tigers also scored their final seven points from the free-throw line, as Isabel Ihnen, Reiner and Kaylee Kirk stepped up to go 7 of 8 at the stripe over the final 2 1/2 minutes.

DWU shot 21 of 57 (36.8%) from the field, gave the ball away 19 times and was dominated inside, getting outscored 36-10 in points in the paint, but compensated by making a season-high nine 3-pointers on 27 attempts (33%) and going 20 of 22 (90.9%) at the free-throw line.

Reiner’s 21 points, nine rebounds and three assists led the way for the Tigers, as Kirk added 15 points, seven rebounds and five assists. Jada Campbell posted seven points, nine rebounds and three assists, while Ihnen chipped in 15 points (11 in the first half), eight rebounds and three assists off the bench.

Rylee Pauli paced Concordia (16-12, 13-9 GPAC) with 20 points and eight rebounds, with Rushton dropping in 19 points, including the only three 3-point makes of the game for the Bulldogs. Sadie Powell put up 12 points and four rebounds and Mackenzie Toomey contributed eight points and six rebounds.

As a result of Saturday's action, DWU earned the No. 3 seed in the GPAC tournament and will host Concordia, the No. 6 seed, again at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 23.

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