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Conahan Shoots Concordia to Fab Four

March 10, 2012
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By Jake Knabel, NAIA Communications & Sports Information Intern

SIOUX CITY, Iowa – (Box Score) Star power was on display in the last quarterfinal contest on Saturday at the State Farm-NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball National Championship. Second-ranked Concorda’s (Neb.) Kristen Conahan went toe-to-toe with Grand View’s (Iowa) Jennifer Jorgensen in a battle between two of the tournament’s top players.

On this night, Conahan refused to let her Bulldogs lose as Concordia advanced with an 80-68 triumph.

“She was fantastic,” Bulldog head coach Drew Olson said. “Great teams always have a player that steps up in big moments. I feel like we have three or four players between Conahan, Amber Kistler, Katie Rich and Bailey Morris. All four of them can go off, and Kristen just stepped up and made some plays.”

Grand View led by as many as 10 points early in the second half after a Jorgensen bucket made it 45-35 in favor of the Vikings. But that’s when the Concordia defense tightened and the Bulldog “big four” responded. Kistler ignited a 16-2 run immediately after that gave Concordia a 51-47 lead with 14:47 left to play.

Grand View then put together a mini 4-0 run, but was thwarted right there after by yet another Conahan basket. The Vikings would manage only four points in the final seven minutes of action and the Bulldogs iced the win at the free throw line.

Conahan played exceptionally well in the second half, but it was her first half that may have been most important. She knocked home 16 points in the first stanza on 6-for-9 shooting, keeping her team within six points during a half in which her teammates were just 4-for-19 from the field. She would finish with 26 points and was a pest on the defensive end with six steals.

“Their point guard is unbelievably good,” Grand View head coach Garey Smith said. “She’s really talented. She hurt us pretty bad. For us, we need to control those people and stop them from getting to the rack.”

Jorgensen led the Vikings with 19 points and 12 rebounds in her final game at the collegiate level. The senior guard, who went over 2,000 career points on Friday, spurred Grand View to only its second-ever appearance in the quarterfinal round.

“It was tough,” Jorgensen said. “They were trying to deny the ball to me. I found openings, I just wasn’t hitting my shots.

“We did everything we could. We had the lead at halftime. We fell a little short, but we can’t be disappointed with how far we’ve come.”

Morris added 16 points and four steals for the victors, while Rich contributed 13 points and six rebounds for the Great Plains Athletic Conference (GPAC) champions.

Concordia’s entry into the Fab Four completes the semifinal field, which is made up of three teams from the formidable GPAC. The Bulldogs are making their third appearance in the Fab Four and will look to make the national title game for the first time in school history.

Concordia (34-2) will face College of the Ozarks (Mo.) at 8 p.m. on Monday, following Northwestern (Iowa) versus Briar Cliff (Iowa) in the other semifinal matchup. Concordia last faced Ozarks at the national tournament in 2008 when the Lady Bobcats came away with a 78-53 victory. With top-ranked Indiana Wesleyan’s loss to Northwestern on Saturday, Concordia is now the highest ranked team remaining in the field.