SIOUX CITY – An early season matchup of perennial GPAC and NAIA national women’s basketball powers produced the same results as most of the previous engagements.
No. 10 Morningside outscored 25th-ranked Concordia 89-83 Wednesday at Allee Gym, running its winning streak to six.
A critical spurt late in the third quarter allowed the Mustangs, 6-2 overall and 4-0 in the GPAC, to overtake the Bulldogs after they had rallied from an early 12-point deficit to take the lead.
Concordia (5-4, 2-3) trailed 31-19 midway through the second quarter, but trimmed the deficit to five points at halftime and surged in front after intermission.
Senior sharpshooter Sierra Mitchell stepped up for the Mustangs at just the right time. Mitchell scored nine of her game-high 26 points in the final three minutes of the third quarter and tallied 13 in the stanza.
With Concordia leading 52-49, Mitchell hit a step-back 3-pointer to tie the game. Her two free throws once again drew Morningside even at 54-54 and Mitchell hit another trey to snap a 56-56 tie.
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Then, to cap her magnificent third-quarter performance, she drained a 3-pointer with 1.4 seconds left, giving the Mustangs a 62-58 lead. They never trailed the rest of the contest.
“We knew coming in it was going to be a good game and we were going to have to play our best,” Mitchell said. “We made some big shots in the second half that we needed and came out on top.
“Defensively we still have lots of things to work on. My teammates played really well offensively tonight and hit some big shots and were able to get the win at the end.”
Mitchell and Sophia Peppers – a pair of all-league performers last season – carried a lot of the offensive load. Mitchell was 7-for 14 from the field and 5 of 11 from the arc, while Peppers hit six of 12 shots and finished with 20 points.
All five of the Mustang starters, though, reached double digits.
Sophomore post Chloe Lofstrom kept Morningside afloat in the first half, scoring 10 of her 12 points. Taylor Rodenburgh posted a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds, while point guard McKenna Sims had 11 points.
The Mustangs led 17-12 after one quarter and 38-33 at halftime, but Concordia scored the first eight points of the second half to seize the lead.
Lauren Baker sandwiched a pair of 3-pointers around a bucket by Bailey Conrad. Baker’s second three gave the Bulldogs their first lead of the game and the third long-range bomb made it 44-40 at the 7:19 mark of the third quarter.
Although Morningside stayed in front the rest of the game, the Bulldogs kept it close. The Mustangs clinched it with six free throws in the final 36 seconds.
“It’s a good thing we hit shots, because I don’t know if we had any stops,” deadpanned Morningside Coach Jamie Sale. “It seemed like every time we hit a big shot they would come back and hit one. They did a really good job of answering every time we scored. Down the stretch I was hoping we could score every time because it didn’t seem like we were going to stop them.
“Offensively, we’re playing really well, bu we’re going to have to figure out what our defensive identity is. We’re not getting stops when we need to and ultimately when we go on the road we’re going to have to find ways to get stops.”
Baker scored 24 points, Rylee Pauli 16 and Mackenzie Toomey 15 for Concordia.
“It was great game, very entertaining and both teams shot very well,” Concordia Coach Drew Olson said. “We have a team that’s still learning and growing so that margin of error is so small. I think of all the 50-50 balls we could have won and didn’t. They have players that step up and make big-time plays.
“We have a really good group with a lot of fight. I think we’re going to be there at the end as long as we keep learning and growing and staying together.”
Mitchell moved into third place on Morningside’s all-time scoring list with 2,193 points. She is 17 points away from taking over the No. 2 spot.