MITCHELL, S.D. – Saturday’s win against Briar Cliff University was more than just a win to end the regular season for the Dakota Wesleyan University women’s basketball team.
The 96-72 win over the ninth-ranked Chargers was the signature win Dakota Wesleyan has been waiting for all season, and it came at an opportune time. DWU’s win Saturday at the Corn Palace ensured the Tigers the fifth seed in the Great Plains Athletic Conference postseason tournament. It also marked the Tigers’ 20th win of the year – DWU’s first 20-win season since 2003-04 – and kept Dakota Wesleyan’s hope for an at-large bid to the NAIA National Tournament alive.
The Tigers (20-10) are on the road Wednesday, Feb. 20, for a quarterfinal game in the GPAC tournament. Dakota Wesleyan takes on Briar Cliff – the four seed – for the second straight game and third time this season. That game will be played at 7 p.m. Wednesday in Sioux City, Iowa. The winner of the quarterfinal plays the winner of the Hastings College/Morningside College matchup on Saturday, Feb. 23.
In her effort to help Dakota Wesleyan complete the upset of the Chargers, Tiger junior Kim Johnson had a career day of her own Saturday. The Sioux Falls, S.D. native scored the 1,000th point of her college career on a pair of free throws with 3:10 left to play to become the 17th player in DWU women’s basketball history to score 1,000 points. She needed 17 points to hit the milestone heading into the game, and finished the day with 20 points.
For the first few minutes Saturday, neither team was able to grab a substantial lead, and the score was tied five times, including 16-16 with 12:52 left in the half. But Amanda Hart and Celeste Beck hit back-to-back 3-pointers to put the Tigers up six, 22-16. The Chargers responded with two threes of their own, and made it a four-point game, including 31-27 with 8:11 left in the first half, but Beck hit a layup to spark a 19-8 DWU run that spanned the remainder of the first half.
Dakota Wesleyan grabbed its first double-digit lead on a layup by Johnson with 5:14 left before halftime. The Chargers cut into that with a jumper and a three-point play, but Beck hit another three and Katie Johnson, Brittany Hills and Beck all scored in the final 35 seconds of the half to put DWU up 50-35 heading into the break.
Hart hit another three to start the second half, but Briar Cliff went on an 8-0 run to make it an eight-point game, 53-45, with 15:51 left to play. Elizabeth Lamb and Beck answered with back-to-back threes to push DWU’s lead back to 14, and from there the Chargers never got closer than 11. The Tigers outscored Briar Cliff 18-6 in the final 7:10 of the game to pull off the upset.
Beck finished with a game-high 22 points – including four 3-pointers – to pace Dakota Wesleyan. Kim Johnson finished with 20 points and nine rebounds, Hills had 16 points and six assists, Katie Johnson had 15 points and 10 rebounds and Hart finished with 15 points on five threes. DWU shot 46.5 percent from the field, hit 13 threes and went 17-for-19 from the line. The Tigers had 46 rebounds and 20 turnovers.
Lexi Henschke led the Chargers (22-8, 13-7) with 13 points and four rebounds and Jordan Sanger added 10 points. Briar Cliff shot 45.6 percent from the field, hit nine 3-pointers and went 11-for-22 from the line. The Chargers had 32 rebounds and 23 turnovers.
DWU starts its run through the GPAC tournament Wednesday in Sioux City. The Tigers and Chargers split during the regular season, with each team winning on its home court. BCU beat Dakota Wesleyan 76-61 Nov. 17 in Sioux City in the first GPAC game of the year.