After three losses to Bulldogs, it was DWU's time
SIOUX CITY, Iowa—Concordia University had DWU's number this season.
Had being the key word.
The Tigers blitzed Great Plains Athletic Conference rival Concordia University 82-59 and claimed their first ever NAIA Division II women's basketball championship on Tuesday.
It was a stark contrast to the first three meetings this season, which were all close but all in Concordia's favor.
DWU lost the three previous meetings against the Bulldogs this season, including a 90-88 in the GPAC title game on Feb. 27 in Seward, Nebraska. The Tigers lost to the Bulldogs 70-66 (Nov. 18) and 55-42 (Feb. 17) this season.
"We played so hard against this team three times," DWU senior Chesney Nagel said. "But tonight, we knew what was at stake and we went for it. We knew that we had lost to them three times before. We knew we weren't going to lose to them again."
DWU exacted the ultimate measure of revenge and shot past Concordia at DWU-crazed Tyson Event Center in Sioux City, Iowa.
"The atmosphere was just unbelievable here," said DWU sophomore guard Kynedi Cheeseman, who was the tournament MVP and finished with 26 points in the title game. "I don't think Concordia has ever played against an atmosphere like this. I give full credit our fans and our students that came and supported us. It means so much."
DWU buried its conference foes with a 17-0 run in the second quarter and led 40-19 at halftime. The Tigers drilled 15 3-pointers, which tied a season-high set earlier in the national tournament, and was once again just shy of the tournament record (17).
"That was huge," Nagel said about hitting the 3-pointers. "We knew we just had to go out there and push it at them every time and that was our goal. We had to win every five minutes and that's what we did and we kept going. We had the utmost confidence in our shooters and that showed."
The Tigers not only shot lights out, but they also dominated the glass and outrebounded the Bulldogs, 41-30.
"We rebounded the ball well and not giving them second chances was huge," DWU coach Jason Christensen said.
They also had just 11 turnovers against Concordia's suffocating defensive pressure. The Tigers had 20 turnovers in the last meeting against the Bulldogs. DWU also had 22 in the Feb. 17 defeat against the Bulldogs.
"We protected the ball," said Nagel, who had a DWU flag draped around her shoulders after the game. "We gave each other a chance. We knew where to look for each other. We knew where to go with it and that was the biggest thing. We always turned the ball over before and I think that was the difference in the game. We were aggressive and we took care of the ball."