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Versatile DWU ready for Saint Xavier

SIOUX CITY, Iowa--Winning in a variety of ways has propelled the Dakota Wesleyan University women's basketball team to the national semifinals. Today, one game away from the NAIA Division II national championship game, the Tigers will again rely ...

The Tigers celebrate following their 78-64 win over Southeastern University during a game in the quarterfinals of the NAIA Division II National Tournament on Saturday at the Tyson Events Center in Sioux City, Iowa. (Matt Gade / Republic)
The Tigers celebrate following their 78-64 win over Southeastern University during a game in the quarterfinals of the NAIA Division II National Tournament on Saturday at the Tyson Events Center in Sioux City, Iowa. (Matt Gade / Republic)

SIOUX CITY, Iowa-Winning in a variety of ways has propelled the Dakota Wesleyan University women's basketball team to the national semifinals.

Today, one game away from the NAIA Division II national championship game, the Tigers will again rely on their versatility.

Standing in DWU's way of a national championship appearance is last year's runner-up-Saint Xavier, of Illinois. The No. 7 Tigers (30-6) will battle the No. 4-ranked Cougars (32-2) at 6 p.m. at the Tyson Events Center in Sioux City, Iowa.

After Saturday's 78-64 win over No. 1 Southeastern, DWU head coach Jason Christensen said Saint Xavier was a team that plays with a fast tempo. On Sunday, Christensen said his team's deep bench will need to play a crucial role against the Cougars.

"(We need to) stay fresh," Christensen said. "We have to look to get to the rim in transition, look to take open shots and make sure we are constantly crashing the boards for second chance opportunities."

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After playing three games in four days, including back-to-back games on Friday and Saturday, Christensen said Sunday was a welcomed rest day for the team. DWU spent Sunday watching film before going to church, then had an hour-long practice session. The remainder of the day was for rest and stretching.

"The last two games were an emotional high with lots of intensity and energy all 40 minutes," he said. "A day to rest and stay off our feet was huge."

Entering the tournament, the Cougars averaged 87.6 points per game, led by Kara Krolicki's 20 points per game. Saint Xavier will face its third straight Great Plains Athletic Conference team as the Cougars eliminated Morningside on Friday and Hastings on Saturday.

DWU, which has won all three tournament games by double digits, is holding opponents to an average of 62.3 points per game in the tourney. Defense will again be the Tigers main focus.

"Our kids know what is in front of them and are willing to do whatever it takes to win," Christensen said.

Along with X's and O's, the excitement level has reached an all-time high for DWU after advancing past the quarterfinals for the first time in Christensen's eight seasons. Rylie Osthus pointed out reaching the national semifinals has been a goal for the team since the season began.

"It's awesome," Chesney Nagel added on Saturday. "We're here for the long run."

Nagel, as well as Amber and Ashley Bray, are the Tigers' three seniors. The three starters have been a part of three straight national tournaments and are making the most of their final trip.

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"We don't want it to end," said Ashley Bray, who scored a game-high 26 points on Saturday.

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