Morningside toppled reigning NAIA Division II National Champion Saint Francis to advance to the Final Four. Photo / Gene Knudsen

Jessica Tietz

This time there was no need for a comeback.

One night after having to rally from a 17-point deficit against Oklahoma Wesleyan make it out of the second round, No. 1-ranked Morningside rolled to a 79-62 victory against No. 9 University of Saint Francis in Saturday’s quarterfinals of the NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball National Tournament at Sioux City’s Tyson Events Center/Gateway Arena.

The Mustangs led wire-to-wire and were never seriously threatened as they took down the defending NAIA II National Champion Cougars, who bowed out with a 25-10 record.

The Mustangs return to the NAIA II Final Four for the seventh time in the last 12 years and will take a 35-1 record into a 6 p.m. Monday semifinal round contest against Hastings. Morningside, which won NAIA II National Championships in 2004, 2005, and 2009, defeated Hastings 73-47 and 60-46 during the regular season.

Hastings’ 68-67 victory over Saint Xavier in Saturday evening’s final quarterfinal set up an All-GPAC Final Four after league members Briar Cliff and Concordia punched their tickets during Saturday afternoon’s action.

Mandy Osborne

Morningside’s Jessica Tietz was the dominate player on the floor against Saint Francis with a double-double of 22 points and a career-high 11 rebounds in just 23 minutes to lead all performers in both categories. Tietz received double figure scoring support from Allison Bachman with 13 points, Madison Braun with 12, and Mandy Osborne with 11. Osborne came close to a double-double of her own with eight rebounds to go along with her 11 points. Taylor Bahensky just missed double figures with nine points to go along with game-high totals of five assists and four steals.

Brooke Ridley, a returning NAIA II first-team All-American, paced the Cougars with 19 points and eight rebounds. Akyah Taylor, who played at Michigan State earlier in her career and had 16 double-doubles for the Cougars this season, had 11 points and seven rebounds before she exited with an injury with 8:51 remaining. Paige Frisch joined them in double figures with 15 points behind a five-for-10 shooting performance from the 3-point arc.

Morningside outrebounded the Cougars 38-34 and pressured the defending national champions into 23 turnovers and a 39.2 percent shooting performance.

Tietz was already closing in on a double-double with 15 points and eight rebounds when the Mustangs took a 41-25 lead into the intermission after an opening 20 minutes where Saint Francis shot a dismal 29.2 percent.

Morningside scored on its first two possessions of the game on a close range shot by Tietz and a drive to the basket by Bahensky to take 4-0 lead. The Mustangs pushed their lead into double figures less than six minutes into the game when a pair of free throws by Mallorie Moore put them up 15-5 with 14:19 left in the half. The Mustangs eventually built their lead to 16 points on two occasions, the last time on a basket by Osborne as time expired to put the Mustangs up 41-25 at the break.

Saint Francis scored the first two baskets of the second half before the Mustangs answered with a 3-point jumper from the baseline by Braun and a score off an offensive rebound by Tietz to push their lead to 17 points at 46-29 with 16:50 remaining.

The Cougars never got closer than 10 points and Morningside eventually led by as many as 19 points, 68-49, after a pair of free throws by Braun with 6:32 left in the game.

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