SIOUX CITY, Iowa – Forget about a fourth quarter deficit this time. The top-ranked Concordia University women’s basketball team put together a first half stretch so utterly dominant that it left seventh-ranked Indiana Tech shell-shocked. Amazing Grace Barry controlled the flow of the game in an opening 20 minutes that featured a 43-16 Bulldog flurry heading into the break. The Bulldogs rode that wave to a 73-53 win over seventh-ranked Indiana Tech in the quarterfinals of the NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball National Championship on Saturday (March 9).
Thirteenth-year head coach Drew Olson has led his program back to the national semifinals for the fifth time during his tenure (seventh trip in school history). This will be the third season in a row Concordia has advanced to at least the semifinal round.
“The game plan going in was playing our usual style of defense, pressing and playing our matchup zone,” Olson said. “They did a really good job early on. As a coaching staff we thought maybe we might have to adjust there. We were planning on possibly switching to man and it was just a little bit earlier than we expected. I was really pleased with our kids and their ability to adapt and they’re confidence to knock down shots. That was a huge part in that first half.”
Taylor Cockerill was the hero in Friday’s second round win over 17th-ranked Cardinal Stritch University (Wis.). On this team, the role of Wonder Woman typically changes hands from game-to-game. Barry and freshman Mackenzie Koepke were a two-person wrecking crew on Saturday, blowing holes in the Warrior man-to-man defense. Barry put up a stat line of 17 points, six assists and five steals while Koepke racked up 15 points and eight rebounds.
Tech has relied on one of the nation’s top defenses all season. But Barry and Koepke carved it up at times during the first half. The stage wasn’t too big for the freshman and product of Lincoln Lutheran. Koepke buried back-to-back triples to cap a 17-0 first quarter surge. Twelve points in a row came via treys by either Barry or Koepke.
“I think that’s what separates us from all the other teams, that on any given night anybody can go off,” Barry said. “It could be Mack. It was TC the other night. It could be Philly (Lammers) or Quinn (Wragge) – we have so many different options for scoring.”
Indiana Tech’s balloon had been popped by halftime. The defensive adjustments made by Concordia worked to perfection. Although the Warriors (32-4) committed a reasonable 15 turnovers, in very few instances were they able to play composed in the face of the energy the Bulldogs brought. Concordia was the clear aggressor while smothering Indiana Tech to the tune of 31.5 percent shooting and only four made 3-point field goals.
For the second game in a row, Lammers fouled out. It just didn’t really matter on this particular day. She still managed to be one of six Bulldogs with eight points or more. After the 17 by Barry and 15 by Koepke, Cockerill (nine), MacKenzie Helman (nine), Lammers (eight) and Riley Sibbel (eight) came next in line. Wragge had only two points, but she hauled down 11 rebounds while gutting out 38 minutes of action.
The balanced bunch was never phased by an 8-0 hole out of the gate. A few minutes after Olson called his first timeout, it was as if the deficit never even happened. It certainly helps to go 7-of-9 from 3-point range in a half.
“We’ve had some really tough games and this group is a tough group,” Olson said. “They’re confident. They really believe in each other so they’re never going to get worried that we’re down 6-0 early in the game. They believe in themselves.”
Indiana Tech defeated West Virginia University Tech and Eastern Oregon University on its way to the quarterfinals. The Warriors were led on Saturday by the likes of Alexis Hill (17 points, two steals), Kendall Knapke (15 points, 11 rebounds) and DeAnn Kauffman (10 points, two steals). Indiana Tech still has yet to reach the national semifinals in its program’s history.
Two more steps remain in Concordia’s quest to close the deal on the ultimate goal. In order to get back to the title game, the Bulldogs will have to defeat either No. 2 Northwestern or No. 5 College of the Ozarks in the semifinals. Tipoff of Concordia’s semifinal is set for 6:05 p.m. CT on Monday (March 11). The game will be televised live via ESPN3.com.
“We’re a great team and we know that,” Koepke said. “We have to come every day and be focused and finish our season strong.”
Listen to the game here.