Morningside turned back visiting Dakota Wesleyan 80-59 in the GPAC Women’s Basketball Post-Season Tournament Championship Game. Photo / Gene Knudsen
No. 1-ranked Morningside overcame an injury to its leading scorer and rebounder when it toppled No. 10 Dakota Wesleyan 80-59 in Tuesday’s GPAC Post-Season Tournament Championship Game in the Rosen Verdoorn Sports Center.
The Mustangs, who stretched their winning streak to 12 games, added the GPAC Tournament title to their GPAC regular season championship and will take a 31-2 record into the upcoming NAIA Division II National Tournament in Sioux City. Dakota Wesleyan, which fell to 25-8, will also go to the national tournament with an automatic entry as the GPAC tournament runner-up.
Morningside suffered a major blow early in the game when Jessica Tietz, this week’s GPAC Player of the Week, left the game with an injury with 8:06 left in the first quarter and did not return.
The injury loss deprived the Mustangs of their top scorer and rebounder, but players like Madison Braun and Lauren Lehmkuhl stepped up to help insure that the Mustangs defeated Dakota Wesleyan for the 24th game in a row.
Braun bombed in six of nine 3-point field goal attempts on her way to a game-high 24 points to finish just two points shy of her career scoring high. Lehmkuhl, meanwhile, came off the bench to post her second consecutive double-double with 15 points, just one shy of a career high, and a game and career-high 12 rebounds to lead the winners to a slight 34-32 edge on the boards.
Lexi Ackerman joined them in double figures with 15 points and a game-high six assists, followed by Jordyn Wollenburg with eight points and Taylor Bahensky with seven points and a game-high five steals.
Dakota Wesleyan’s only leads came in the first quarter when Erica Herrold came out hot and made a trio of 3-point field goals and had 11 points less than five minutes into the game to shoot the Tigers into a 16-10 lead with 5:38 left in the first quarter.
The Tigers’ lead didn’t last long. A pair of 3-pointers by Lehmkuhl tied the score at 16-16 with 1:25 left and fueled a Morningside run of 10 unanswered points that closed out the quarter and put the hosts in front 20-16.
Morningside stretched its lead to 39-30 at the intermission and 58-46 after three quarters. The Mustangs eventually increased their lead to a game-high 22 points on two occasions in the fourth quarter, the last time at 80-58 when Braun made the last of her six 3-pointers with 2:25 left in the game.
The NAIA II National Tournament pairings will be announced on Wednesday.