Sioux City, Iowa – As the buzzer sounded and the confetti fell, the Dakota Wesleyan University women's basketball team gathered on the court in jubilation, celebrating the first National Championship in program history. DWU downed Concordia University 82-59 in the NAIA Division II Women's Basketball Championship Game, presented by Mercy Medical Center and Seaboard Triumph Foods, Tuesday at the Tyson Events Center in Sioux City, Iowa.
Senior guard Chesney Nagel (Springfield, S.D.) wasted no time getting the Tigers on the scoreboard as she knocked down a jump shot in the first minute of the game. After the Bulldogs went on a 5-0 run, DWU answered back with its own 5-0 run, capped off by an Ashley Bray (Anoka, Minn.) 3-pointer.
Ashley Bray nailed another three-point shot, followed by a Sarah Carr (Huron, S.D.) 3-pointer, giving the Tigers a 13-8 lead. Concordia pulled within a point following a pair of free throws from Quinn Wragge. However, the Tigers had an answer, as Nagel and Rylie Osthus (De Smet, S.D.) hit back-to-back 3-pointers to extend the lead back to seven points.
The Tigers outscored the Bulldogs 19-5 in the second quarter. After Concordia made it a four-point game, DWU pulled away thanks to a 17-0 run over the final nine minutes of the second quarter. The run was kicked off by a Kynedi Cheeseman (Alexandria, S.D.) 3-pointer, and finished with another Cheeseman three-point shot to give the Tigers a 40-19 lead at halftime.
Ashley Bray began the second half with a pair of three-point shots for the Tigers, followed by a pair of Madison Mathews (Draper, S.D.) 3-pointers, giving DWU a 52-26 lead. Cheeseman scored seven of the last eight points in the third quarter for DWU to help widen the lead to 26 points.
The final quarter of the season saw more domination by the Tigers. After Concordia made a shot, DWU went on a quick 7-0 run that saw a pair of Ashley Bray layups in transition to take a 30-point lead. Moments later, Ashley Bray found nothing but net from three-point range, while Cheeseman poured on another 3-pointer, helping the Tigers lock up their first national title in school history.
Three members of the DWU team were named to the All-Tournament First Team as Cheeseman, Osthus and Ashley Bray were tabbed with the honors. Cheeseman was also honored as the Most Valuable Player of the tournament. Women's head basketball coach Jason Christensen was named the Coach of the Year in NAIA Division II Women's Basketball.
Cheeseman led all scorers with 26 points on 7-of-7 shooting from the free-throw line and 3-of-6 shooting from beyond the arc. Ashley Bray tallied 21 points and five rebounds, as Nagel chipped in 12 points, seven rebounds and four assists. DWU knocked down 15 3-pointers in the contest, while holding the Bulldogs to 35 percent shooting in the game. The Tigers finished with 21 assists to 10 assists by Concordia and outrebounded the Bulldogs 41-30.
"For us to do what we did throughout this event was huge," Christensen said. "We rebounded the ball well and not giving them second chances was huge."
"It has been a dream, and now it is a reality," Ashley Bray mentioned. "We couldn't ask for anything else."