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No. 14 Tigers hold off Red Raiders

It's not officially the postseason, but Wednesday's contest between No. 14 Dakota Wesleyan University and Northwestern College had a playoff atmosphere.

DWU's Amber Bray (44) drives around Northwestern's Katy Kuiper (21) during a women's college basketball game between the schools on Wednesday at the Corn Palace in Mitchell. (Sarah Barclay/Republic)
DWU's Amber Bray (44) drives around Northwestern's Katy Kuiper (21) during a women's college basketball game between the schools on Wednesday at the Corn Palace in Mitchell. (Sarah Barclay/Republic)

It's not officially the postseason, but Wednesday's contest between No. 14 Dakota Wesleyan University and Northwestern College had a playoff atmosphere.

Locked in a tight four-way tie for second place in the Great Plains Athletic Conference heading into the game against the Red Raiders, the Tigers couldn't afford a slip up.

As it turned out, the DWU defense stood tall in the final moments to hold on for a 64-62 GPAC win in front of 1,550 fans at the Corn Palace.

"Anytime you hold a team in the 60s, you always have a chance to win," DWU head coach Jason Christensen said. "It was one of those games where we're very lucky to get the win today, but I'm glad we did."

The Tigers clung to a 64-62 lead with less than a minute remaining when Northwestern's Renee Maneman was fouled. Maneman ended up missing both free throws, but the Red Raiders escaped with the rebound and called a timeout with 25.6 seconds. After another Northwestern timeout, Haley Birks missed a 3-pointer and a second-chance putback by Katy Kuiper also fell short before DWU's Ashley Bray came up with a rebound and was immediately fouled.

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"We have to make free throws and if we make our free throws, they're the ones trying to comeback and make a play to win," said Northwestern head coach Chris Yaw, who added he wanted to go for the win out of the timeout and liked the look Birks got. "We kept fighting and tried to make plays, but we just fell short."

Bray missed her free throw but a desperation 3-pointer by Maneman from half court fell short as the buzzer sounded, halting Northwestern's upset bid.

"We value each possession and the final moments like we had today is what we work on everyday," said Christensen, whose team never led by more than seven points. "I can't say enough good things about our defense on those final possessions."

Amber Bray led the Tigers with 18 points, converting on 7 of 9 field goals, while Erica Herrold and Kristin Sabers each added 16 points. DWU went 23-of-58 from the field for 39 percent and 13-of-19 from the line for 68 percent in the win.

Kassidy De Jong scored a game-high 24 points for the Red Raiders, while Birks added 14 points and Maneman chipped in 10 points and seven assists. Darbi Gustafson, an Ethan native, started the game for Northwestern and finished with six points before fouling out of the contest with four minutes remaining.

Northwestern (14-13, 9-12 GPAC) led 12-11 after the first quarter but trailed 26-23 at halftime.

The win helped DWU (22-7, 14-7 GPAC) keep pace for second place in the GPAC as both Mount Marty and Concordia pulled out GPAC wins on Wednesday. However, Briar Cliff lost on Wednesday, which makes the race for the No. 2 seed in the GPAC tournament a three-team battle.

Christensen said regardless of how the remaining games play out, he feels the Tigers have a strong enough resume for a national tournament bid.

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"Now, it's about surviving and advancing," Christensen said. "We take it one game at a time now. We're not worried about the GPAC tournament, we're worried about Hastings on Saturday."

DWU competes in its regular season finale against Hastings at 2 p.m. on Saturday at the Corn Palace in Mitchell.

Notes: The DWU women's basketball team has adapted a "no media" policy for its players. Head coach Jason Christensen said the policy wasn't set by him, and is coming from the players instead. "We want to stay in our circle and stay focused," Christensen said. ... With Wednesday's victory, DWU reached 22 wins the on the season. It is the third-most win total in program history behind the 2001-02 (32 wins), 2003-04 (28 wins) and 2002-03 (25 wins) teams.

NC 12 23 43 62

DWU 11 26 45 64

Northwestern (14-13, 9-12 GPAC)

Renee Maneman 5-12 0-2 10 Katy Kuiper 1-8 0-0 2 Kassidy De Jong 8-13 5-8 24 Darbi Gustafson 2-4 2-4 6 Haley Birks 6-10 0-2 14 Morgan VanDerSloot 0-1 0-0 0 Claudia Larsen 0-2 0-0 0 Arianne Gesell 3-7 0-2 6 TOTALS 25-57 7-18

Dakota Wesleyan (22-7, 14-7 GPAC)

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Rylie Osthus 2-5 1-2 5 Erica Herrold 5-16 5-6 16 Ashley Bray 1-9 5-7 7 Madison Kuehl 0-1 0-0 0 Amber Bray 7-9 2-4 18 Gabby Frykbo 0-3 0-0 0 Hope Menning 1-1 0-0 2 Kelsey Bertram 0-2 0-0 0 Kristin Sabers 7-12 0-0 16 TOTALS 23-58 13-19

3-point goals: DWU 5-20 (Sabers 2, Am. Bray 2, Herrold); NC 5-15 (De Jong 3, Birks 2); Assists: DWU 18 (Osthus 6), NC 13 (Maneman 7); Rebounds: DWU 32 (Am. Bray 8), NC 29 (Kuiper 6); Fouls: DWU 16, NC 15; Turnovers: DWU 11, NC 11; Attendance: 1,550.

Related Topics: DAKOTA WESLEYAN UNIVERSITY
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