ORANGE CITY, Iowa – The Dakota Wesleyan University women’s basketball team played in its first top 25 matchup since the 2004 season Wednesday night, and the No. 24 Tigers gave No. 10 Northwestern College all it could handle and then some.
Dakota Wesleyan led by 10 at halftime, went basket-for-basket with the Red Raiders in the second half and had a shot to tie the game in the final seconds before falling 69-66 in a Great Plains Athletic Conference game in Orange City, Iowa. The Tigers are now 14-5 overall and 6-4 in the league. Northwestern improved to 13-4 and 7-3 in the GPAC.
The Tigers led by 10 at halftime, but Northwestern came out looking to defend its home court and took its first lead of the second half with 11:34 to play. The two teams exchanged the lead, and DWU tied the game one last time at 57-57 with 6:08 left. The Red Raiders pushed their lead to seven, 66-59, with 51 seconds left, but Kim Johnson scored and Celeste Beck hit a three with 16 seconds left to make it a two-point game, 66-64.
Karen Hutson hit the first of a pair of free throws to push Northwestern’s lead to three, 67-64, with 14 seconds left, but Amanda Hart missed a three on DWU’s next trip down the court, and Kendra De Jong sank both free throws to put the Raiders up five, 69-64, with four seconds left. Celeste Beck scored in the final seconds of the game, but it wasn’t enough.
Northwestern took a slim lead to start the game, but DWU hit five threes – two by Hart, one by Beck and one by Elizabeth Lamb – to get on the board and go up 15-11 with 11:59 left in the first half. Northwestern cut the gap to one, 19-18, with 7:52 left, but Lamb hit another three to spark a 6-0 run that put the Tigers up 25-18 with 5:41 left in the half. Hart and Lamb hit back-to-back 3-pointers to give DWU a 10-point lead, 36-26, with 1:07 left in the half, and Katie Johnson scored on a jumper to put the Tigers up 38-28 at halftime.
The Raiders came out and made it a six-point game early in the second half, but Lamb hit another three to push DWU’s lead back to nine, 41-32. Northwestern answered with an 8-0 run to make it a one-point game with 14 minutes left to play, tied the game at 45 and took its first lead of the second half – 47-45 – on a jumper by Mackenzie Small.
Beck finished with 18 points and four assists to pace Dakota Wesleyan, which went 10-for-25 from long range. Lamb added 15 points, including four 3-pointers, and Hart had 12 points on four threes – all in the first half. Kim Johnson added eight points and six rebounds. The Tigers shot 41.7 percent from the field, went 6-for-10 from the line and had 23 rebounds and 16 turnovers.
De Jong led all players with 20 points and 13 rebounds for Northwestern. Hutson added 17 points and Samantha Kleinsasser chipped in with 14 points and seven rebounds. The Raiders shot 49 percent from the field, including 51.6 percent in the second half, but went just 1-for-11 from three-point range. Northwestern went 12-for-18 from the line and had 35 rebounds and 18 turnovers.
Dakota Wesleyan is back on the road Sunday, Jan. 13, when they travel to Hastings, Neb., to take on Hastings College. The Tigers upset the Broncos 75-53 earlier this season at the Corn Palace when Hastings was ranked No. 25 in the NAIA.