SIOUX CITY, IOWA – For the second time in three head-to-head meetings during the 2020-21 season, National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics’ No. 7-ranked Morningside College and No. 17-ranked Concordia University battled to a final moments thriller Tuesday, March 2.
With a vocal and partisan Mustangs crowd bringing the noise inside Allee Gymnasium of the Rosen-Verdoorn Sports Center to a din at many points, no sound was louder than the one that followed junior forward Sophia Peppers (JR/Exira, Iowa) (Exira, Iowa) cutting to the basket and gently laying the ball up and in with eight-tenths of a second remaining. The deciding points in a 67-65 decision about Maroon’s 20th straight triumph gave head coach Jamie Sale‘s program its first conference tournament championship since 2015-16 and sixth all-time.
“I told the team when we called timeout with a little over seven seconds remaining that we wanted to curl senior guard Sierra Mitchell (SR/Pleasant Hill, Iowa) into the middle and have them follow her and find Sophia for a drive to the basket,” Sale reflected. “I was confident she would make the shot.”
“I had a free lane to the basket and went ahead and took it,” Peppers noted. “When the ball went in, and I had a chance to think about what happened, I was like ‘Holy cow, did that just happen?’ I knew Concordia still had time to make a play, though, so we had to play defense and get composed for the final eight-tenths.”
Peppers’ game-winning basket was just part of her evening’s resume. Honored pre-game for becoming the 31st member of the program’s 1,000-point club, she hit four three-pointers as part of a stellar six-for-10 overall outing from the field en route to 16 points. She also grabbed eight rebounds, picked up a steal, and dished off two assists.
Sale’s squad continued to prove the balanced scoring track to success they’ve been on throughout. Sophomore guard McKenna Sims (SO/South Sioux City, Neb.) (South Sioux City, Neb.) tallied 15 points, seven rebounds, and five assists; junior forward Taylor Rodenburgh (JR/Hawarden, Iowa)’s (Hawarden, Iowa) super-sub status continued to grow in stature as she hit some key buckets down the stretch to overturn a late Concordia lead as part of a 12-point, 11-rebound double-double to go along with three assists and three steals; and senior guard Faith Meyer (SR/Pomeroy, Iowa) (Pomeroy, Iowa) wound up with 10 points.
Morningside (26-2) now awaits its pairing for the 2021 NAIA tournament. The announcement will be made Thursday, March 4.