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No. 9 Morningside slips past DWU women in final moments

Morningside outscored DWU 8-2 over the final 98 seconds to come away with a win.

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Dakota Wesleyan University's Natalie Gottlob (50) and Dakota Wesleyan University's Rynn Osthus (10) fight for a rebound with Morningside's Sophia Peppers (25) during a Great Plains Athletic Conference game on Wednesday, February 16, 2022 at the Corn Palace.
Matt Gade/Mitchell Republic

MITCHELL — For 38 1/2 minutes, the Dakota Wesleyan women’s basketball team exchanged big runs and timely baskets with Morningside, a team ranked in the NAIA top-10 nationally all season, but in the final moments, it was the Tigers who blinked.

Locked in a 72-72 tie with under two minutes to play, No. 9 Morningside scored eight of the game’s final 10 points to escape with an 80-74 victory over DWU in Great Plains Athletic Conference action Wednesday night at the Corn Palace.

The first quarter went back-and-forth, marked by one tie amongst seven lead changes, as Morningside held a 17-15 advantage after 10 minutes.

After a 7-0 run to start the second quarter made it 22-17 DWU, the final 6:14 of the half belonged to the Mustangs. Within 90 seconds, a 9-0 Morningside run made it 26-22, but the extended spurt didn’t stop there. The Mustangs surged to a 39-29 lead at the break, powered by 24 points between Sierra Mitchell and Sophia Peppers.

Trailing 46-35 in the early stages of the third quarter, DWU went on a 16-2 run to take back the lead, but Morningside closed the period strong to take a 60-57 lead into the fourth quarter.

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A Matti Reiner free throw with 3:44 remaining leveled the game at 72 apiece, where it would remain for more than two minutes. Morningside’s McKenna Sims connected on a pair of free throws with just over 90 seconds to play, starting an 8-2 run over the final 98 seconds that sealed a Mustangs’ victory.

While Morningside had already secured the top seed in the GPAC tournament, which starts Feb. 23, DWU entered Wednesday in a tie for third and owned the tiebreaker over Northwestern College. However, No. 16 Northwestern (23-6, 15-6 GPAC) notched a 72-62 over No. 24 Dordt (22-7, 15-6 GPAC) on Wednesday night to vault into a tie for second, meaning DWU now needs help on the final day of the regular season to end up any higher than the fourth seed.

Reiner paced DWU with 23 points to go with five rebounds and six assists, while Aspen Hansen was the only other Tiger to reach double figures in scoring, finishing with 10 points and five rebounds. Kaylee Kirk and Jada Campbell each chipped in nine points, as Kirk added five rebounds and four assists and Campbell grabbed a team-high seven rebounds. Isabel Ihnen had eight points, six rebounds and three assists.

Morningside (24-4, 19-2 GPAC) was led by Peppers’ 24 points, powered by a 3-for-3 effort on 3-pointers, as she added six rebounds and three assists. Sims threatened a triple-double with 17 points, eight rebounds and seven assists, while Mitchell was held to two second-half points and finished with 16 for the game. Chloe Lofstrom ended her night one point shy of a double-double with nine points and a game-high 10 rebounds.

DWU (22-7, 14-7 GPAC) hosts Concordia on Saturday, Feb. 19, in both teams’ final regular-season contest. The Bulldogs defeated the Tigers, 90-58, on Jan. 8 in Seward, Nebraska.

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