By Travis Rae, Communications and Sports Information Intern
SIOUX CITY, Iowa - (Box Score) No. 6 Davenport (Mich.) defeated No. 7 Northwestern (Iowa), 74-68, in the semifinals of the State Farm-NAIA Division II Women's Basketball National Championship. With the win Davenport will advance to its second national championship game in three years. The loss snaps Northwestern's 18 game-winning streak in the national championship.
The Panthers and Red Raiders played a tight first half as neither team held a lead great than five points in the half, as there were five ties and five lead changes. Northwestern took the lead off three points at 7-4 after Kendra De Jong hit a layup.
However, that lead did not last long for Northwestern as Karli Harris drove to the hoop and hit a layup and was fouled. Harris hit the layup to tie the game at seven. The next position for the Panthers, Harris took the ball to the hoop again and picked up another old fashion three point play to give Davenport a 10-7 lead.
Davenport's lead did not last as Northwestern answered right back and after a Mallory Cunard three-pointer the Red Raiders had the tied the game at 12. That lead for Northwestern lasted 20 seconds, as Davenport answered with a three of their own by Emily Nielsen to put the Panthers ahead 15-12.
The Red Raiders and Panthers continued to battle for the lead and each team matched each point for point. It looked as if Davenport would take a lead into halftime as they held a 32-27 lead with 1:44 left after Kayla Gross it back-to-back threes for Davenport. The Red Raiders had other ideas as Northwestern's Alli Dunkelberger scored the last five points of the half for Northwestern to tie the game at 32.
The Panthers and Red Raiders continued to trade leads and keep the game close to start the second half. After seven minutes of action the Panthers held a 45-44 lead. With the Panthers ahead by one, Davenport went on a 12-4 run that saw their lead stretch to 11, 59-48 with 9:23 left in the game.
Northwestern would not go away as they started to battle back. The Red Raiders scored the next five points to bring Northwestern within five, 59-54.
The Panthers stretched its five point lead back to nine, 65-56, before the Red Raiders made another comeback run. During this stretch, the Red Raiders scored the next seven points, and trimmed the Panthers lead to two points, after Alli Dunkelberger three-pointer.
That would be as close as Northwestern would get as the Panthers extend its lead again. Harris and Gross would seal the win for Davenport as the Panthers would go 7-for-8 from the charity strip in the last minute to security the 74-68 win to advance to the title game.
Karli Harris led the Panthers with a game-high 26 points. Tiesha Stokes followed with 12 points. For the game, Davenport forced 28 Red Raiders turnovers. Alli Dunkelberger scored 18 for the Red Raiders, while Kendra De Jong followed with 12 points.
"It was a different fashion on getting turnovers today where in the past we used a full court pressure but today we got up the lines and were able to get our hands on the ball and get some tips," said Davenport's head coach Mike Williams.
Davenport will take on the winner of Indiana Wesleyan and Morningside (Iowa) game in the finals of the Division II Women's National Championship game. Tip-off is scheduled for 6:05 p.m. CST on Tuesday.