Concordia University's Grace Barry (right) drives to the basket as Northwestern's Sammy Blum defends the NAIA Division II Tournament semifinals Monday at the Tyson Events Center in Sioux City, Iowa.

SIOUX CITY, IOWA — Northwestern had another comeback in its arsenal Monday night, but this time a furious rally fell just short in an 82-79 semifinal setback to Concordia in the NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball Championship.

The Red Raiders, who fought back from 17 points down to beat College of the Ozarks in a quarterfinal Saturday, trailed top-ranked Concordia by 20 points in the second quarter.

They charged all the way back to take the lead in the fourth quarter, but Concordia withstood the challenge and advanced to its second straight championship game.

The Bulldogs (34-3) will either have a rematch with Dakota Wesleyan or could play Southeastern (Fla.) Tuesday night at 7:05 at the Tyson Events Center.

After Northwestern totally erased the huge deficit and took its first lead of the game 15 seconds into the fourth quarter, the lead changed hands 13 more times before the dust cleared.

As it turned out, Northwestern (29-5) enjoyed its last advantage with 4:19 left when Blum drained a three-pointer, 72-70. Concordia scored the next six points and forced four key turnovers in the final four minutes.

Still, the game wasn’t decided until the final horn, much like the buzzer-beater against Ozarks the other night.

Blum missed the first of two free throws with five seconds left and the Red Raiders trailing 82-79. She missed the second on purpose and the ball caromed off a Concordia player and out of bounds.

Kassidy De Jong, who ended her career with yet another stellar performance, looked to be open for a possible three-point shot at the end, but Concordia stole the inbounds pass at the horn.

“We just have some really tough competitors on our team and they find ways to win,” Concordia Coach Drew Olson said. “There were stretches in there where as a coaching staff we were wondering how we were going to get this done and yet they continue to make plays.

“I’m really proud of their effort, their toughness. It came down to us being able to get some stops when we really needed them and they didn’t.”

Concordia went on a 12-0 run in the first quarter to open up a 19-5 lead. The Red Raiders cut it to 13 by the quarter mark, but Concordia took its biggest lead, 35-15, with 5:25 left in the half.

Momentum clearly shifted Northwestern’s way in the third quarter as it doubled the score (24-12) to pull within 53-51 at the quarter break.

GPAC Player of the Year Philly Lammers of Concordia had 28 points, 13 rebounds and five steals. Grace Barry was next in line with 19 points, while Quinn Wragge added 13 points and Taylor Cockerill 10.

Northwestern’s De Jong finished with 23 points, six rebounds and five assists. Blum chipped in 17 points, while Haley Birks and Darbi Gustafson (7 rebounds) recorded 10 and nine points, respectively. Freshman Taylor VanderVelde was also in double figures with 10 points.

Concordia won the rubber game between the schools. Each prevailed on their home court during the regular season.

“Every time we meet this team it’s a different challenge because we know each other so well it just kind of changes the game a little bit,” Lammers said. “It was just coming in with great focus and coming away with a big win.

Concordia registered 16 steals and scored 29 points off 23 Red Raider turnovers.

“It’s easy to be proud of this group, even before tonight’s game and how they fought back at the end,” Northwestern Coach Chris Yaw said. “There’s so much to be proud of beyond what you guys got to witness in this tournament. It goes beyond what they do on the court that makes them outstanding young people.

“You could see in their eyes that a comeback was in them. You could see it when they shared eye contact with each and embraced each other. They were absolutely believing no matter what point it was in that game.”

It was the final game for De Jong, Gustafson and Birks, who combined to score nearly 6,000 career points.

“They lead all of those kids in the locker room so well and challenge each other really well. They’ll be great at passing the baton as well.”


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