FREMONT, Neb. – The Concordia University women’s basketball team knew it was in for a sneaky difficult road challenge on Wednesday (Feb. 19) evening. This turned into a four-quarter battle for the Bulldogs, who followed the lead of their vaunted senior class in a 75-68 victory at Midland. The senior quartet of Grace Barry, Colby Duvel, Philly Lammers and Riley Sibbel combined for 61 points.
Fourteenth-year head coach Drew Olson’s squad retains a one-game lead over Hastings atop the GPAC standings. Concordia (27-2, 20-1 GPAC) has won 13-straight games.
“I thought Midland played really well. The way they shot the ball kept them in the game,” Olson said. “I was pleased with the way we handled that and responded to make enough plays to win. With our health situation we went mostly with our starting group along with Mack Helman. Philly, Colby and Rylee (Pauli) did a lot of damage inside. That was a big strength of ours.”
By game’s end, both Barry and Lammers had reached significant career milestones. Counting her two seasons at the University of Nebraska-Kearney, Barry’s career point total now stands at 1,002. Meanwhile, the three-time All-American Lammers has etched her name in as the program’s third player ever to notch 1,000 career rebounds. Both were instrumental in staving off the upset bid put forward by the host Warriors (11-18, 7-14 GPAC).
Forget what the record looks like for Midland, which entered the night fresh off an impressive 3-1 four-game road swing that featured a victory at then seventh-ranked Morningside. The Bulldogs led by as many as 15 points in the second half, but that advantage was whittled down to seven in part due to a strong shooting performance from Lexi Kraft (4-for-8 from 3-point range) and her Warrior teammates. Midland shot 48.9 percent from the floor and knocked down 10 3-point field goals.
Regardless, it would have been a shock to see a team full of battle-tested seniors let this one slip away with sole possession of first place riding on the outcome. Concordia failed to score in the game’s final three minutes, but the only points it allowed were a Kraft trey that was too little too late. At the controls, Barry stuffed the stat sheet with 16 points, nine assists and four steals.
Barry added to her highlight reel with a nifty pass fake and layup along with a bevy of assists to Lammers. The Omaha native finished with 18 points, seven rebounds and four steals in 35 minutes of action. Four of the five Bulldog starters played more than 30 minutes, including Barry, Duvel and Sibbel. Duvel enjoyed a fine evening that saw her post 16 points on 7-for-10 shooting from the floor. Meanwhile, Sibbel went 3-for-5 from 3-point range and recorded 11 points.
“Riley really stepped up,” Olson said. “That was the best she’s looked shooting the ball in a while. I don’t know if it was playing without the mask or what. She gave us a nice lift. She had a sold all-around game.”
The 2017-18 Concordia semifinalist team actually had its undefeated run (24-0 at the time) end in Fremont that season. The stat that stood out most in favor of the Bulldogs on this particular night was their +11 turnover margin (21 turnovers forced). Kraft (16 points) led a group of three double-figure scorers for Midland.
Off the bench, Concordia got strong contributions from senior MacKenzie Helman (five assists) and sophomore Rylee Pauli (eight points on 4-for-7 shooting). The Bulldogs went only 6-for-22 (.273) from 3-point range, but shot 47.6 percent (30-for-63) overall.
The longest conference road trip was saved for last. Concordia will end the regular season at Jamestown (16-13, 9-12 GPAC) on Saturday. Tipoff is set for 2 p.m. CT from North Dakota. The Bulldogs won the first matchup, 105-56, in Seward.