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NAIA Dakota Wesleyan vs Concordia Basketball

From left, Dakota Wesleyan's Riley Osthus and Chesney Nagel celebrate their win against Concordia at the 2018 NAIA Division II Women's Basketball Championship on Tuesday, March 13, 2018, at the Tyson Events Center in Sioux City, Iowa. Sioux City Journal Photo by Justin Wan

SIOUX CITY – Perhaps Dakota Wesleyan didn't take too kindly to losing three previous games to Concordia.

At least it looked that way in the NAIA Division II National Women's Basketball championship game Tuesday night.

NAIA Dakota Wesleyan vs Concordia Basketball

Concordia's Mary Janovich, left, attempts a shot against Concordia's Quinn Wragge during championship action of the 2018 NAIA Division II Women's Basketball Championship on Tuesday at the Tyson Events Center in Sioux City.

The Tigers came out with a vengeance against their Great Plains Athletic Conference rivals, firing and connecting at will from beyond the 3-point arc while essentially putting the game away at halftime en route to a 82-59 triumph at the Tyson Events Center.

Dakota Wesleyan, avenging three setbacks to the Bulldogs, made 8 of 15 3-pointers in the first half and zipped to a 40-19 lead at intermission. The Tigers held Concordia scoreless for the last nine minutes of the second quarter and outscored the Bulldogs 19-5.

Five of those treys came in succession in the first quarter as DWU took a 21-14 lead. After Concordia's Taylor Cockerill made a 3-pointer with 9:12 remaining, the Tigers ran off 17 unanswered points.

Even when the Tigers missed, they seemed to grab every loose ball or rebound. In short, it was DWU's night from the beginning.

Dakota Wesleyan wound up making 15 of 31 3-pointers and outrebounded the Bulldogs 41-30.

“This is just awesome, it's what these kids work for all the time, it's what you dream of, I'm just so happy for the kids right now,” Dakota Wesleyan Coach Jason Christensen said. “There's only one national champion each year and now we can finally say, Mitchell, South Dakota, we have a national championship banner.

NAIA Dakota Wesleyan vs Concordia Basketball

From left, Dakota Wesleyan's Chesney Nagel looks on as teammate Kynedi Cheeseman picks up a rebound against Concordia's Taylor Cockerill during championship action of the 2018 NAIA Division II Women's Basketball Championship on Tuesday at the Tyson Events Center in Sioux City

“It's not just about the kids, it's about the community, everything that Mitchell and DWU stands for.”

Dakota Wesleyan (32-6) captured the school's first national title and became the 13th champion in the 27-year history of this event from the Great Plains Athletic Conference to cart home the heavy hardware.

This was the third time two teams from the GPAC had met for the championship. Morningside clipped Concordia 59-57 in 2015 and beat Hastings 68-63 in 2009, while Dakota Wesleyan fell to Hastings 59-53 in 2003.

Kynedi Cheeseman, a 5-10 sophomore named the tournament's Most Valuable Player, fired in 26 points, while fellow all-tournament pick Ashley Bray added 21 points. Cheeseman (8-for-15) and Bray (8-for-14) shot a combined 16 of 29 from the field.

“Nobody expected us to be this far so we just wanted to prove the nation wrong and that we were the best team in the nation,” Cheeseman said. “They beat us three times this year so we didn't want them to beat us a fourth time. We wanted to beat them when it really mattered.”

Chesney Nagel added 12 points and seven rebounds for DWU, which tied Northwestern for second place in the regular season GPAC standings and were a No. 3 seed in their national tournament bracket.

En route to their national title, the Tigers knocked off No. 1 overall seed Southeastern (Fla.), Saint Xavier and Concordia, each of which were No. 1 seeds.

“We shot it real well today,” Christensen said. “We have a saying we're going to shoot it before we boot it. We've been turning it over a lot against teams like this that like to do a 2-1-1 press. We just went out and shot with confidence today and played really well.”

Concordia won both the GPAC regular season and tournament titles, pulling out a dramatic 90-88 victory over DWU in the tourney title game.

However, the Bulldogs' heartaches in Sioux City continued. Concordia has reached the Fab Four six times, with no championships to show for it.

Philly Lammers, another all-tournament pick, had 23 points and six rebounds for Concordia, which closed out a fantastic 36-2 campaign.

Riley Osthus of Dakota Wesleyan and Kara Krolicki of Saint Xavier, named the NAIA Player of Year for the second straight season, rounded out the all-tournament first team.

The second team consisted of Brittany Collins of Saint Xavier, Kamari Jordan of St. Francis (Ill.), Renee Maneman of Northwestern, Quinn Wragge of Concordia and Ana Richter of Southeastern. Remi Mejia of Southern Oregon won the Hustle Award.


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