SIOUX CITY, Iowa – (Box Score) For the first time since 2007, a team from the Great Plains Athletic Conference will not appear in the championship semifinals, as No. 5 Cardinal Stritch (Wis.) upset No. 2 Morningside (Iowa), 82-71, in the quarterfinals of the 2014 NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball National Championship, presented by State Farm.
Cardinal Stritch will play top-seeded and unbeaten Saint Francis (Ind.) at 6:30 p.m. CDT on Monday. Prior to tonight’s victory, the Wolves had never advanced beyond the quarterfinals in 17 trips to the national championship – the most appearances in history for a team that has not played in the Fab Four.
The Wolves, who stumbled into the championship with a 4-5 record in its final nine games, used free throws and turnovers to knock off the Great Plains Athletic Conference regular season co-champions. Cardinal Stritch outscored Morningside, 23-8, at the free throw line, including 14 points in the second half, while the defense forced 23 turnovers.
The two sides battled to a nearly identical first half that ended with the scored knotted at 34. Both teams shot approximately 40 percent from the field with around 10 turnovers.
Five-straight points by Ashlynn Muhl gave Morningside a 42-36 lead two minutes into the second half, however Cardinal Stritch stormed back with an 18-2 run capped by a jumper by Jenny Shernell. Morningside brought the deficit back within three via a bucket by Allison Bachman, but it proved as close as the Mustangs would come as Cardinal Stritch converted 6-of-7 free throws in the final 1:24 to maintain the lead.
Junior forward Becky Gilbreath and sophomore guard Emily Neitzel keyed the Cardinal Stritch offensive attack in the contest. Gilbreath tallied a game-high 23 points on 8-of-13 shooting, while Neitzel tallied 22 points on a 7-for-12 effort from the field. Neitzel also led the team with nine rebounds and seven assists.
As a team, Cardinal Stritch shot 49.1 percent from the floor and 71.9 percent at the foul line.
Morningside received another dominant performance from Muhl, who ended the night with 22 points and 12 rebounds, including seven offensive boards.
With the loss, Morningside ends the season with a 29-7 record. The Mustangs had previously earned a berth into the semifinals in four out of the last six seasons, with their most recent trip coming last year.