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Morningside at Briar Cliff basketball

Briar Cliff's Johanna Vaske guards Morningside's Madison Braun. Braun was named the GPAC Player of the Year.

Jim Lee, Sioux City Journal

SIOUX CITY – From an untested freshman known mostly for her shooting, to the Great Plains Athletic Conference Player of the Year, Morningside’s Madison Braun has transformed into one of the top players in the program’s rich history.

The 5-foot-8 senior from Bellevue, Nebraska, is the fourth leading scorer in Morningside history with 1,929 career points. She trails only Amy Wilhelm, Megan Cloud and Brittany Carper (by 254 points) on the all-time list.

That is pretty select company and Braun joined Carper (2004), Cloud (2005) and Dani Gass (2009) as GPAC Player of the Year honorees. The other three have each had their uniforms retired.

Preparing for her final NAIA Division II national tournament, Braun has become the undisputed team leader, helping nurture a young team that took its lumps this season but hopes to make a run at the Tyson Events Center this week.

Morningside (21-11) earned an at-large berth and plays Rio Grande (Ohio) in a first-round game at 7 p.m. Thursday.

“Personally, everything I’ve done is great but I wouldn’t be here without my teammates and the support of my family and the coaches,” Braun said. “It all kind of goes back to that as well for my success.

“Hopefully I can give these freshmen what I experienced as a freshman, a really good run at the national tournament. I hope as seniors we can lead the team and come out with a good ending for all of us because it’s our last time playing in the national tournament and on the big stage.”

Braun, a product of Bellevue West High School, where she led her team to Nebraska Class A state runner-up honors in 2014, has started every game of her Morningside career. Not surprisingly, her scoring average has increased every season.

As a freshman, Braun averaged 8.1 points per game while leading a team that captured the school’s fifth national championship with 73 3-point goals. Long-range shooting has always been her specialty and Braun has gone on to make a school-record 375 treys in 946 attempts (39.6 percent).

Braun was a second-team All-GPAC selection as a sophomore after averaging 12.2 points and has been on the first team each of the last two seasons. She averaged 15.9 points as a junior and this season is the seventh-leading scorer in the nation with a 20.5 average, which is tops in the GPAC.

“She has just carried us this season,” Morningside Coach Jamie Sale said. “We have a good team but not great scorers around her so teams have really keyed on her to take her away and she’s still been able to score.

“She was good as a freshman but has just improved so much. As a freshman she was pretty much just a 3-point shooter and now she can get to the basket, has a mid-range game plus she can still shoot the 3s. I don’t know what our season would have been like if we didn’t have her.”

Braun has been the Mustangs’ leading scorer in 14 of their last 17 games and is riding a streak of 27 consecutive double figure performances since an eight-point effort on Nov. 7 for her only single-digit effort of the season.

The talented guard has 15 scoring performances of 20 points or more, including four 30-point games, and poured in a career-high 38 points against Northwestern on Jan. 24.

“When I came in as a freshman the help of the seniors and upperclassmen really made me feel comfortable,” Braun said. “Sophomore year I was starting to be a little more aggressive. The highlight of my junior year was getting to 1,000 points. Just improving my game from shooting into driving with the help of the coaches Braun is the NAIA Division II national leader this season with 123 3-point goals. She is seven shy of the Morningside record of 130 3-point goals in a season set by Kate Lokken in 2003-04.

Aside from her scoring and shooting exploits, Braun is fifth in the nation with 101 steals and third on the team with 67 assists.

“She’s been a great leader and very supportive of the young players she’s had to play with,” Sale said. “I think our younger players are going to be better for it someday just seeing how hard a player like that has to work.”

As a youngster, Braun took part in dance to softball and everything in between.

“My older brother played basketball, he’s four years older than me so he was kind of who I looked up to at that point,” Braun said. “He would always have a ball in his hands and I just kind of followed in his footsteps.”

Her father was also a basketball player while her mother played volleyball. Madison tried volleyball but admittedly “wasn’t very good at that sport.”

“My parents got me into everything when I was younger which I have to thank them for,” Braun said. “They didn’t let me miss a practice or tournament in the summer or season. I’m very lucky to have my family’s support, I would not be here without them.”

While Braun has spent an ample amount of time improving her basketball game at Morningside, she is pursuing a nursing degree. Fellow senior Rachelle Housh is also a nursing major.

“It’s very time consuming, but the coaching and faculty support has been great,” Braun said. “Every girl here is easy to get along with and it’s like another family.”

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