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Familiar foes: DWU, Concordia to clash in championship

Dakota Wesleyan's Jessica Mieras (50) shoots over the top of Saint Xavier University's Brittany Collins (30) and Kara Krolicki (22) during a game in the semifinals of the NAIA Division II National Tournament on Monday at the Tyson Events Center in Sioux City, Iowa. (Matt Gade / Republic)

SIOUX CITY, Iowa—The Dakota Wesleyan University women's basketball team is hoping the fourth time will be the charm today.

Beating up on non-Great Plains Athletic Conference opponents has been the No. 7-ranked Tigers' forte in the NAIA Division II national tournament. On Monday, the Tigers won their fourth tournament game by double digits, overwhelming the only non-GPAC team left to reach the national championship game for the first time in 15 years.

And with the Tigers playing No. 2-ranked Concordia for the fourth time this season, DWU head coach Jason Christensen said there are no secrets left ahead of the title game.

"They know us and we know them," Christensen said. "It's going to be about who has heart. Who is going to out and play and lay it on the line."

After the Bulldogs bested Northwestern 84-77 in the second semifinal on Monday, Concordia head coach Drew Olson said his team has played tough in every contest against DWU this year.

"They are a really good basketball team. They can really shoot it and they got some good size inside," Olson said. "It's a matter of playing really, really hard. I think our kids do that."

As impressive as DWU's run through the tournament has been, Concordia's has been equally impressive. The Bulldogs defeated Stillman College (Ala.) 75-52 in the first round, Taylor (Ind.) 71-50 in the second round and Jamestown (N.D.) 79-61 in the quarterfinals.

Olson said he told Christensen after the Bulldogs' 90-88 win in the GPAC championship that the two teams would meet again in the national tournament championship.

"I really believed that was the case," Olson said, adding his team has faced Saint Xavier and College of Ozarks. "We just felt that (DWU) was the toughest team we've played all year. Sure enough, here we are."

Kynedi Cheeseman, who is averaging 20.5 points per game in the national tournament, said today's game is what the Tigers have worked hard for.

"This is what we envisioned at the start of the season," Cheeseman said about reaching the championship game.

Once again, the Tigers will look to play strong defense and limit turnovers, while finding ways to score against the Bulldogs, who are allowing an average of 60 points in four tournament games. DWU is also counting on a similar homecourt feeling with plenty of Tiger supporters.

"Our fans our huge. Look at what we had (Monday)," Christensen said. "This is what it is about."