College basketball fans were clad in Hawaiian attire for Morningside and Briar Cliff women’s basketball team’s big clash in the Great Plains Athletic Association (GPAC) Post-Season Women’s Basketball Tournament semifinals at Morningside.
The Mustangs remained one of the hottest teams in the NAIA Division II as the second-ranked squad beat No. 14 ranked Briar Cliff, 89-65 to gain a spot in the GPAC Women’s Basketball Post-Season Tournament Championship game played Feb. 26 at Morningside against Northwestern College. Morningside was 27-4 overall record before the Mustangs faced Northwestern for the third time this season. The Mustangs had won 11 straight games before the conference post-season tournament championship game.
Morningside beat Briar Cliff for the third time this season.
Bobbi McManaman gave the Mustangs the lead for good with a three-pointer, one of five she made in the game, for a 25-22 lead following a recovery from a 19-4 deficit. McManaman finished five-of-10 from three-point range for 15 points. Trask maintained a slim 66-65 lead in the treys department but beating Northwestern for the GPAC title at home Tuesday was more important than any statistic.
“I did not shoot that well in the first half. I got a rhythm in the second half,” said McManaman, a senior from Hawarden.
It was her ninth double figure scoring effort off the bench this season. For her season statistics, McManaman was 69 of 170 all field goal attempts, 60 of 153 three-point shots, 6 of 9 free throw attempts for 204 points, a 6.8 points per game average.
Trask finished with 20 points. She made two three-pointers and six-of-six from the free-throw line. It was her 10th scoring performance of 20 points or more this season. The senior from Rockford, Iowa, came in to the BCU clash with 127 of 287 all field goal attempts, 64 of 156 threes, 87 of 105 free throw attempts for 285 total points and a team-best 14.3 points per game average.
“We wanted this one,” said Trask of the clash with BCU.
Both half-joked about McManaman’s defensive skills.
“Bobbi is improving on her defense,” said Trask as the two talked after the win. “She is like our silent killer (on offense).”
“Chelsie makes me work on the defense. It’s my downfall,” said McManaman.
McManaman contributed two steals, five rebounds and two assists to go along with her hot second half three-point shooting.
Morningside sophomore Ashlynn Muhl had one historic game with 21 points and 20 rebounds. Muhl, 6-foot, made eight of nine field goal attempts. It was her fifth double-double statistically of the season. Muhl finished one point shy of her career scoring high. Her 20 rebounds was a career best and finished just five shy of the Morningside single-game record of 25 caroms set by Trish Martin against St. Cloud State during the 2000-2001 season.
After Morningside finished with a 24-point lead in the closing minute it would be easy to forget about its comeback from a 19-4 deficit with the game seven minutes old.
“We did not panic. Chelsie’s three-pointer (for a 19-9 deficit) got us going and Bobbi’s threes really helped out,” said Morningside Coach Jamie Sale.
Morningside also turned up the pressure on defense and BCU ended with 30 turnovers. Leading scorer for the season Kelsey Evans led the Chargers with 12 points. Guard Lexi Henschke added 10 points.
Shelby Beaudette made five of six floor shots and ended with 10 points. Kalene Anderson chipped in with eight points.
Muhl’s 20 rebounds led the Mustangs to a 46-33 domination of the boards.
BCU (23-9 record) shot 36.7 percent. The Chargers shot 30 percent from behind the arc, 68.2 percent from the foul line. Morningside shot 47 percent from the field, 36.4 percent from beyond the arc and 77 percent from the free throw line. BCU, with the loss, will now await its NAIA National Tournament assignment at Sioux City’s Tyson Events Center-Gateway Arena, which begins March 6. Afterward fans were hoping for a rematch with Northwestern or Morningside.
The Chargers of Coach Mike Power came out as the inspired team. Its biggest lead, much to the delight of its large crowd, came on an Evans layup for a 19-4 lead with 13:04 left in the first half. Morningside had a run of 13 unanswered points to close within 19-17 on a layup by Hanna Blum with 10:14 left in the half. McManaman’s second three pointer of the half gave the Mustangs a 25-22 lead with 7:39 left in the half. Morningside eventually led 42-33 at halftime thanks to a 38-14 spurt.
Morningside led just by four points, 57-53, after a three-pointer by BCU’s Jordan Sanger (who scored six points). Leeann Osten sent Morningside on a 31-12 finish to the first half with two free throws, followed by two more from Task. McManaman made three three-pointers in three minutes of playing time down the stretch to extend the lead.
Led by Muhl and Anderson, Morningside had a 38-20 points-in-the paint area advantage.
As for the next round the Mustangs were trying to knock off NAIA Division III National Champion Northwestern for the sixth time in a row dating back to last season and for the third time this year.
Northwestern includes local players junior Mackenzie Small, who made two free throws in the Red Raiders (23-6 record) 85-83 win over Concordia University in the other GPAC Women’s Basketball Post-Season Tournament semifinal and freshman Dana Weerheim of Hawarden, a West Sioux alum.