SIOUX CITY – Concordia’s last game before it came to the national tournament was a nail-biter.
It’s NAIA Division II National Basketball Championship opener on Wednesday was anything but that.
No. 1 seed Concordia, regular season and tournament champions of the Great Plains Athletic Conference, used its talent, depth and experience to overwhelm Stillman (Ala.) in a 75-52 first-round victory.
“It is good to get that first one and get some confidence going into the next one,” Concordia Coach Drew Olson said. “I thought our kids played well defensively, we stuck to the game plan. Thankfully we were able to hit some shots in the second quarter to break it open.”
The win came after the Bulldogs had a back-and-forth battle with Dakota Wesleyan, a fellow national tournament qualifier, to win the GPAC tournament title 90-88.
“To play in that kind of atmosphere, that kind of pressure game and to find a way to win, it just shows the toughness that they have,” Olson said. “It gives them the confidence that they can win this tournament.”
Stillman, by contrast, was at the national tournament for the first time in program history. The Tigers struggled with the Concordia’s defense and did not find the Tyson Events Center to its liking when it came to their shooting eye. They shot 31 percent in the game and 21 percent in the first half when they fell behind 43-27 at the break.
Concordia got a double-double from sophomore Philly Lammers who had 16 points and 10 rebounds while Brenleigh Daum hit three of the Bulldogs’ eight 3-pointers for 14 points. Those were the only double-digit scorers, but 11 players scored for Concordia.
Part of the reason the Bulldogs are so tough to deal with is the balance the squad brings to the floor. Six players averaged 9.5 points or more with Lammers leading the way at 13.2 and Quinn Wragge close behind at 13.0.
“I think we just came in prepared and I know a lot of us have been to this tournament before so that experienced helped us,” Lammers said. “Being here before there is more levelheadedness and remaining calm in tight situations.”
The Bulldogs built their lead to 11 points in the first quarter as they scored 12 of the final 16 points with Stillman struggling to get the ball in the basket. Things did not get any better in the second quarter as the Tigers managed just six points.
Concordia had its lead at 31-13 in the second quarter when Olson went to wholesale substitutions sitting his starters with more than four minutes to go in the half. The Bulldogs showed their depth as they kept scoring building a 43-17 halftime advantage.
Stillman was led by Ki’Onna Likely’s 18 points and Courtney Baker had nine points and 10 rebounds.
“We hope to play a while in this tournament, so we need to conserve some energy and that is what we were trying to do,” Olson said. “They are confident, and they know what to do.”
Concordia advances to Friday’s second round with a 10:15 a.m. game against fourth-seeded Taylor (Ind.).