SIOUX CITY | Morningside continued its women's basketball dominance of Briar Cliff, but the shorthanded Chargers made the eighth-ranked Mustangs work for a 84-72 Great Plains Athletic Conference win Wednesday at the Rosen-Verdoorn Sports Center.
Lauren Lehmkuhl posted her fourth consecutive double-double with 21 points and 15 rebounds and the Mustangs defeated Briar Cliff for the 14th consecutive time. The Chargers, though, didn't go down without a fight.
Playing without seniors Kaylee Blake and Morgan Hansen, who are nursing minor injuries, youthful Briar Cliff (14-15, 8-11) stuck with Morningside (22-7, 13-6) until the end.
“I thought they played very inspired, they really pressured us and got us to make a lot of mistakes so give them credit,” Morningside Coach Jamie Sale said. “I think they thought their backs were against the wall and they came out and really fought.
“We played good enough to win, but like we told our team we want to be sharp at the end of the year and we weren't exactly sharp so we want to improve. But it still had a lot to do with how fired up Briar Cliff was, they played really inspired and took us out of our game a little bit.”
Morningside won for the 14th time in its last 16 games and Sale ran his record against his former team to 32-2, but the Mustangs continued a trend of playing well one game and not so well the next, which is a bit disconcerting considering there is one regular season game remaining.
“That part makes me a little crazy, I just don't know,” Sale said. “One time we look like nobody can beat us and then it looks like anybody can beat us. We've been trying to figure that out all year and obviously as a coach I haven't been able to figure it out quite yet.
“Hopefully being a short season now and not much left they'll be pretty motivated to focus and play our best basketball. If we don't, we'll just be done.”
Briar Cliff had the lead in the early going and trimmed a 13-point halftime deficit to five three minutes into the third quarter. The Mustangs answered with a 14-0 run but BCU scored nine of the last 11 points of the third quarter.
It was 61-50 heading into the fourth quarter and Briar Cliff cut it to a seven-point game, 71-64, with five minutes remaining.
“I thought the kids played with a lot of passion and that was important,” Briar Cliff Coach Mike Power said. “Sometimes younger kids don't understand how hard you have to play and I thought tonight was one of those game where literally it wasn't one, two or three kids playing, whoever we had out there was playing with a lot of passion and heart.
“Morningside made the shots when they had to but I thought we played with a lot of energy.”
Freshmen Kailey Burke had 18 points, Taylor Wagner 17 and Alyssa Carley 16 while former Hinton High School standout Burke also grabbed seven rebounds.
Madison Braun nailed five 3-pointers and tallied 19 points for the Mustangs, who were 10-for-29 from the arc. Lexi Ackerman chipped in 14 points, hitting 10 of 10 free throws while Rachelle Housh added10 points. Ackerman contributed nine rebounds, five assists and two steals.
“At the beginning of the game Jamie said since a couple people weren't suiting up they were going to play very hard and it showed, too, they played twice as hard as we did,” Lehmkuhl said. “It was hard to get going, we knew they were going to come out and try to win because they had nothing to lose because they're fighting for a spot in the conference (tournament).
“We're really trying to get better and work at things. We definitely had a setback this game but I'm glad we got the 'W.' We only have five or six more practices and just three games are guaranteed so it comes down to wanting to play, focusing, moving forward and taking it one game at a time.”
Briar Cliff shot just 36.5 percent from the field but forced 26 turnovers and had 19 steals, five by Julie Targy and four from Kylee Hickman.
Despite not playing what it considered up to par, Morningside managed to fend off the challenge and hit shots when it needed to. The Mustangs end the regular season at Midland while Briar Cliff plays at Hastings.