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DWU women pull away late for first-round win at national tournament

SIOUX CITY, Iowa -- There wasn't any question who the Dakota Wesleyan University women's basketball team was going to turn to when the Tigers' needed a boost.

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Dakota Wesleyan's Ashley Bray, makes a pass around Haskell's Kortney Meat (3) during the first half of the Tigers' NAIA Division II women's basketball tournament first round game Wednesday at the Tyson Events Center in Sioux City, Iowa. (Matt Gade/Republic)

SIOUX CITY, Iowa -- There wasn’t any question who the Dakota Wesleyan University women’s basketball team was going to turn to when the Tigers’ needed a boost.

DWU, seeded third in its bracket and ranked 10th in the nation, fed first team all-Great Plains Athletic Conference player Erica Herrold the ball. She delivered.

RELATED: Photos from DWU's win over Haskell

Herrold finished with a game-high 27 points, including 9-of-9 shooting from the free-throw line, and helped the Tigers claim a 75-64 win over sixth-seeded Haskell Indian Nations University (Kan.) in an early morning first-round NAIA Division II national tournament game at the Tyson Events Center in Sioux City, Iowa.

“She was huge,” DWU head coach Jason Christensen said after the game. “We rely on her a lot. She’s our leader and she did some good things for us.”

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The 6-foot forward and Dimock native earned an old-fashioned 3-point play with 1 minute, 11 seconds left in the game, which bolstered the Tigers’ lead up to 10 points at 72-62. Herrold’s bucket and free throw sent the DWU crowd and bench into a frenzy, as it capped a 14-4 run after the game was tied at 58 early in the fourth quarter.

“We didn’t turn the basketball over in last three minutes and thirty seconds,” Christensen said. “We were smart with the basketball and got a couple of good looks.”

In front of 900 fans at 8:30 a.m., Christensen and the Tigers watched a 17-point, third-quarter lead disappear as the Indians outscored DWU 22-14 in the third period and tied the game after Tyler Sumpter 3-pointer with 7:14 left in the fourth quarter.  

“I don’t think it was really (about) what they did, it was about we ran out of gas,” Haskell head coach Shane Flanagan said. “They’re big and they’re physical. Their size, really affected my players, so I think it was more about the wear and tear on us.”  

Herrold’s final stretch was in doubt when she picked up her fourth foul with 8:42 left with DWU clinging to a 58-55 lead. After Haskell tied the game, Christensen subbed his star forward back into the game one minute later.

“I said ‘We’re going to do or die here’,” Christensen said about the decision to risk Herrold fouling out with more than five minutes left in the game. “We went all-in with Erica and it worked out.”

DWU (26-8) scored 38 points in the paint against a pesky Haskell trapping press and 2-3 zone defense. Herrold, along with fellow post players Kristin Sabers, Amber Bray and Ashley Bray, scored 63 of DWU’s 75 points. The Tigers went 26-of-54 from the field for 48 percent, 5-of-15 from behind the arc for 33 percent and 18-of-24 from the line for 75 percent shooting.  

“Our kids were a little bit anxious and over-thinking every play,” said Flanagan, who commented he didn’t mind the 8:30 start. “They did a good job of attacking the zone and they really went inside on us. We really haven’t gone against anyone who has exposed our zone inside.”

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The Tigers opened with a 24-19 lead after one quarter and held Haskell scoreless in the final five minutes of the second quarter to take a 44-30 halftime lead by closing on a 11-2 run.

DWU clung to 58-52 lead after the third quarter and found a way to fend off the Indians’ comeback and upset bid.

“It wasn’t a surprise to me or our kids,” Christensen said about Haskell’s second-half comeback. “They made a good run at us and that’s what you are going to see here at the national tournament.”

Sumpter led the Indians (23-7) with 19 points and eight rebounds, while Keli Warrior added 18 points and Cerissa Honena-Reyes chipped in 10 points. Haskell went 25-of-60 from the field for 41 percent shooting and committed 18 turnovers in the loss.

“One possession can matter here and I thought our kids did a good job of diving after loose balls,” said Christensen, who added he noticed fatigue took a bigger toll on the Indians in the game’s final minutes. “Nothing against Haskell, they did a very good job of getting after us, but we just didn’t take care of the basketball.”

DWU advances to play Davenport (Mich.) in the 8:30 a.m. game in the second round on Friday.

NOTES: Former DWU player Randi (Morgan) Haines was honored for her induction into the NAIA Hall of Fame at halftime. … The win marked coach Jason Christensen’s 100th career win at DWU. … The 26 wins by the Tigers this season is now third-best in a single season in school history … DWU also set a school record for 3-pointers made in a season with 271 after making five on Wednesday. It was DWU’s first win in the national tournament since 2004, the last time the Tigers qualified. … The Tiger players’ no-media policy remains in effect for the tournament, team officials said.

H19 30 52 64

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DWU24 44 58 75

Haskell (23-7)

Cheyenne Livingston 1-5 0-0 2 Tyler Sumpter 8-13 1-1 19 Keli Warrior 7-13 4-6 18 Cerissa Honena-Reyes 4-9 0-0 10 Arnetia Begay 2-9 0-0 4 Ember Sloan 1-2 0-0 2 Kortney Meat 2-6 5-6 9 Tinaya Murphy 0-1 0-0 0 Sylvana Levier 0-0 0-0 0 Brandi Buffalo 0-2 0-0 2 TOTALS 25-60 10-13

Dakota Wesleyan (26-8)

Erica Herrold 8-17 9-9 27 Ashley Bray 5-10 2-2 13 Amber Bray 5-6 3-6 13 Rylie Osthus 1-4 2-5 4 Kelsey Bertram 2-5 2-2 8 Gabby Frykbo 0-0 0-0 0 Hope Menning 0-1 0-0 0 Madison Kuehl 0-0 0-0 0 Kristin Sabers 5-11 0-0 10 TOTALS 26-54 18-24

3-point goals: DWU 5-15 (Herrold 2, Bertram 2, Am. Bray), H 4-17 (Sumpter 2, Honena-Reyes 2); Assists: DWU 16, H 8; Rebounds: DWU 36 (As. Bray 11), H 31 (Sumpter 8); Steals: DWU 12 (As. Bray 4), H 13 (Sumpter 4); Fouls: DWU 17, H 23; Fouled out: DWU (none), H (Warrior); Turnovers: DWU 21, H 18; Attendance: 900

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