SIOUX CITY, Iowa – The Dakota Wesleyan University women's basketball team received help from its bench as they outscored Indiana University-East 28-6 in bench points and defeated IU-East, 78-62 in the first round of the 2018 NAIA Division II Women's Basketball National Championship, presented by Mercy Medical Center and Seaboard Triumph Foods, Wednesday at the Tyson Events Center in Sioux City, Iowa.
Ashley Bray (Anoka, Minn.) got things going as she scored the first points of the game. Moments later, twin sister Amber Bray (Anoka, Minn.) knocked down a long jump shot to give DWU a 4-2 lead. On the next defensive possession, Rylie Osthus (De Smet, S.D.) blocked a layup attempt by the Red Wolves.
With six minutes to play in the first quarter, Sarah Carr (Huron, S.D.) found nothing but net as she drained a 3-pointer off a pass from Osthus. A minute later, Madison Mathews (Draper, S.D.) added another three-point shot for the Tigers to give them a 10-6 lead and made another 3-pointer a minute later to help extend the DWU lead.
A minute and a half into the second quarter, Osthus drove to the hoop and nailed a running jump shot to give the Tigers a double-digit lead, 26-16. Later in the second quarter, Ashley Bray missed a 3-pointer, but had the rebound knocked out by Jessica Mieras (Sioux Falls, S.D.) to give DWU another possession. On that second possession, Osthus made a jumper from the right corner after the ball was swung around the top of the key to give DWU a 40-29 lead at halftime.
Coming out of the break, Mathews picked up where she left off in the first half as she knocked down a corner 3-pointer to give the Tigers a 44-28 lead. Three minutes later, Amber Bray made the old-fashioned three-point play after making a layup and a free throw. The three-point play gave DWU its biggest lead of the game to that point at 49-30. The Red Wolves went on a quick 5-0 run to cut into the DWU lead, but Mieras put a stop to that with a corner jump shot.
IU-East began the fourth quarter by cutting the Tiger lead to single digits after a basket and a foul to make the score 57-48. Mieras put in a basket to give the momentum back to the Tigers with 8:55 left to play in the ballgame. DWU began to stretch their lead with a basket and a foul by Amber Bray. The Tigers took control in the later stages of the fourth quarter after an Amber Bray layup, and an assist from Chesney Nagel (Springfield, S.D.) to Ashley Bray to push the lead to 68-50 in favor of the Tigers. DWU never looked back as they secured its third-consecutive first round win, 78-62 over the Red Wolves from Indiana University-East.
"I thought our bench was huge," women's head basketball coach Jason Christensen said. "They just kept coming at us, and I was proud of the way we came out and handled everything."
Amber Bray led the way with 14 points and seven rebounds, while Osthus tallied a double-double with 13 points and 10 assists. Cheeseman chipped in 13 points and seven rebounds, as Mathews added 13 points off the bench for the Tigers. DWU shot 52.8 percent from the field and 94.1 percent from the free-throw line. The Tigers outscored the Red Wolves 28-6 off the bench and finished with 23 assists to seven assists by IU-East.
DWU advances to the second round and will play at 1:45 p.m. Friday at the Tyson Events Center in Sioux City, Iowa. The Tigers will play the winner of Southern Oregon and Antelope Valley (Calif.).