SIOUX CITY, IOWA – A 29-3 record … Great Plains Athletic Conference regular-season and tournament championships … A postseason outing that saw Morningside College women’s basketball reach heights not seen since 2015.
Many memories for the program, its coaches and student-athletes, and Mustang fans near and far to look back on for some time to come. While challenging to reflect on immediately after a nip-and-tuck National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics’ semifinal battle against No. 1-ranked Thomas More University eluded head coach Jamie Sale‘s squad by a 65-62 count at the Tyson Events Center, the achievements of the year go far beyond the scoreboard’s final numbers posted Monday, March 22.
Sale’s crew preserved throughout the 40-minute battle against the tourney’s top seed in front of a crowd hinging itself on every play. Despite an 18-6 run by the Saints that occurred over the first quarter’s late stages and to the second quarter’s midway point, the Maroon was undaunted. They chipped away and whittled it down to single digits at halftime (36-27) and then brought the largely Mside-backing fans to their feet in the second half. A long-range three-point bucket from the deft shooting touch of senior guard standout Sierra Mitchell (SR/Pleasant Hill, Iowa) (Pleasant Hill, Iowa) closed the gap to one (43-42) with just under 5:30 to go in the third period. TMU built the advantage back to six, but Morningside answered as Mitchell drained another three, this time to beat the buzzer and make it 51-50 with 10 minutes remaining.
Sophomore guard McKenna Sims (SO/South Sioux City, Neb.) (South Sioux City, Neb.) completed the comeback with a trey to open the final stanza, giving the Mustangs a 53-51 edge. The two sides traded the lead until Thomas More’s Brianna McNutt knocked down a triple to start what looked like an innocuous 7-0 run. However, that stretch proved to be enough to allow the top seed and nation’s No. 1-ranked team enough cushion for the victory. Mside made one final push to catch Thomas More, clawing back to 65-62 and having the ball in its possession with 24 seconds left. However, a pair of three-point attempts were just off the mark as the clock ran out.
Mitchell, who averaged just under 21 points per game (20.75) in the team’s four-game national tournament schedule, notched a 27-point effort that featured seven three-point baskets and a perfect four-for-four effort from the free-throw line. Junior forward Sophia Peppers (JR/Exira, Iowa) (Exira, Iowa) wasn’t far off double-figure numbers, adding nine points, three rebounds, a blocked shot, two assists, and a steal. Senior guard Faith Meyer (SR/Pomeroy, Iowa) (Pomeroy, Iowa) (eight points, three rebounds, three steals, and two assists) and junior forward Taylor Rodenburgh (JR/Hawarden, Iowa) (Hawarden, Iowa) (seven points, nine rebounds, one steal, and one assist) were next in line.