SIOUX CITY, Iowa – (Box Score) For the fifth time in school history and first time since 2012, the Chargers of Briar Cliff (Iowa) are headed to the national semifinals of the NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball National Championship. The hometown, fifth-seeded squad used hard-nosed on-ball defense and just enough offense to put away Tabor (Kan.) – a No. 7 seed – 62-53, on Saturday afternoon.
That offense was jump-started by junior guard Jessi Corrick’s 19 points. The majority of her damage came at the free throw line where she was 15-of-16 (93.8 percent). As a team, Briar Cliff was 32 out of 38 (84.2 percent) from the charity stripe – with eight players making at least one freebie.
The Chargers collected their third-straight win, and now hold a 26-11 all-time record in the national championship. They now turn their focus to Monday’s semifinals, and head coach Mike Power’s squad is excited for the challenge ahead.
“First, we are real excited to be at the [Fab] Four,” Power said. “We have not played a great game yet. We have not played an all-together defensive, offensive game; so maybe we are saving our best for last.”
“They [the player] have great confidence. They have their own gage for how they expect us to be. They have their own expectations, and they are excited that we got there, but they know we can play better than this.”
Briar Cliff used the first few minutes of each half to separate from the Bluejays, as Tabor was ice cold coming out of the locker room on both occasions. To begin the contest, the Chargers led 8-0 in the first five-plus minutes.
Erin Maxwell cut the Bluejays’ deficit to 16-5 with 8:47 remaining in the first 20 minutes. The bucket was the first made shot for Tabor in the half. The Chargers were able to stretch their advantage back to 11 points at 24-13 at the 3:01 mark, but watched Tabor go on a 7-0 run of its own to head to the locker room down 24-20.
The start of the second half was almost an instant replay of the first, as the Blujays once again came out frigid from the field. Their deficit ballooned to 13 points until Tena Loewen hit her team’s first bucket of the half at over seven minutes in.
Head coach Shawn Reed acknowledged that his group has had troubles starting fast throughout the season, but he hopes his team soaked in the program’s first taste of the national quarterfinals. He believes the experience will only drive the players and coaches for more in the future.
“We start three sophomores, a junior and one senior, so my hope is that our experience builds,” Reed said. “There is no substitute for experience and we have taken steps forward every step I have been at Tabor.”
“Although that does not guarantee it; you still have to come to work every day and do the things you need to do to get better as a program.”
The Blujays (21-13) were led by Tonisha Dean and her 14 points. Tena Loewen netted eight and a team-high nine rebounds in the loss.
The Chargers march on to the national semifinals against the winner of No. 1 Concordia (Neb.) or third-seeded Jamestown (N.D.) on Monday.
The game will air live on ESPN3.com. Tip is set for 8 p.m. CDT.