SIOUX CITY – In a game of runs, Morningside came up with the decisive one in a 91-83 Great Plains Athletic Conference women’s basketball win over Dordt Saturday at Allee Gym.
Upstart Dordt, which has improved by leaps and bounds under first-year Coach Bill Harmsen, overcame an 18-point deficit to take the lead three minutes into the fourth quarter.
Morningside, however, rattled off nine unanswered points to regain an 82-75 advantage with 3:36 left in the game. From there, the Mustangs salted away the win from the free throw line.
No. 8 Morningside, 16-4 overall and 8-4 in the GPAC, leapfrogged No. 12 Dordt (15-6, 8-5) into fourth place in the league after the opening game of the second half of the conference slate.
The Mustangs shot 54.5 percent from the floor and made 22 of 31 free throws. Dordt couldn’t zero in from long range, hitting just 5 of 30 3-point attempts while shooting 39 percent overall. The Defenders did, however, convert 22 of 30 free throws as the teams combined for 54 fouls.
“Dordt has improved a lot and they are one of the better offensive teams in the conference,” Morningside Coach Jamie Sale said. “When they put the press on us we got a little rattled and let them back in the game. I saw them play against Concordia and they were down 21 and came back and won so I knew they were capable because they’re really well coached and play hard.
“I was just proud of our team that once we lost that lead we fought back and didn’t give up and started executing a little better. In a game of tempo like that you know there are going to be some runs. Some of our turnovers turned into easy baskets for them and we tried to change up defenses to keep them off balance a little bit.”
Dordt’s Erika Feenstra, the leading scorer in the GPAC and second-leading scorer in NAIA Division II with a 23.9 points per game average, was limited to 15 points on 5 of 13 shooting.
The Defenders, though, clawed their way back into it after trailing 60-42 with just under six minutes left in the third quarter. They trimmed it to 69-62 at the end of the quarter and when Kenzie Bousema converted a conventional 3-point play at the 7:56 mark, took their first lead since the opening quarter, 73-71.
After a basket by Morningside’s Grace Meyer, Feenstra made two free throws to put Dordt back in front. That, however, would be its last lead as a bucket by Sydney Hupp started a 9-0 Morningside run.
Sierra Mitchell, who tallied a game-high 23 points, hit a 3-pointer to cap the spurt and added a bucket and free throw with 2:35 remaining, giving the Mustangs an 82-75 lead.
“That was really big for us because we showed we can battle back from them coming back like that,” said Hupp, who scored 18 points and grabbed eight rebounds. “We didn’t panic, we held it together and pulled out the win.”
Point guard Jordyn Moser was also in double figures with 14 points. Morningside zipped to a 16-5 advantage, only to have Dordt score 15 unanswered points and take a 20-18 lead after one quarter.
The Mustangs lit it up in the second quarter, nailing four 3-pointers in the first four minutes to go in front by 10 points and eventually ringing up 29 points to take a 47-34 halftime lead.
“Our coaches suggested in the second half that the trouble Morningside was having with the pressure to keep pressuring,” Harmsen said. “It was great advice and our girls really responded well with that to take the lead and show some resiliency and keep fighting back. It’s going to be good to get a lead once and hang on to it.
“We made a commitment with four minutes left that we were going to foul, I’m not sure the game would have been as close if we hadn’t done that. It was just going to be ugly from there. I learned a lot about us today, what it is going to take to get to that next level.
“It’s a process. We’re 21 games in and sitting really well where we’re at. The three ball will start dropping again for us. Right now everybody is sucking in on our post players because we’re not making any shots, but that will come back.”
Dordt has won eight of its last 12 games. Rachel Evavold added 14 points while Kenzie Bousema came off the bench to chip in 12 points and Baylee Tetzlaff had 11 points in a reserve role.
Morningside, winners of nine of its last 10, plays at College of St. Mary Wednesday, but after that takes on nationally ranked foes Northwestern, Hastings and Dakota Wesleyan in order.