Women’s basketball ends season at final site

Isabel Pheifer — Staff writer

For the fourth time in the past five seasons, Dordt University women’s basketball team ended their season at the final site of the national tournament in Sioux City, Iowa.

Despite falling to Briar Cliff in the GPAC postseason championship, the Defenders were able to continue competing for the national title because of their regular season success, claiming the outright GPAC title. Not only did the Defenders get to advance to the national stage, but they also hosted first and second-round games of the tournament on the familiar hardwood of the De Witt Gymnasium.

Under the coaching of GPAC Coach of the Year Bill Harmsen and the leadership of a veteran lineup familiar with the pressure of national tournament games, the Defenders appeared ready for their first game in their run for the national title. Facing Iowa Wesleyan on March 7, the Defenders pulled away slowly, leading by as many as nine in the first half. A bit of a pushback came from the Tigers in the third quarter, but the Defenders were unphased and led by as many as 22 before taking the win 76-63.

Just one day later, the Defenders faced the lone obstacle standing in their way of returning to the final site once again: the Mayville State Comets. Coming out on fire, the Comets led 11-2 over the Defenders a little under halfway through the first quarter. But for the Comets, glory was short-lived. The Defenders went on a 10-0 run and never trailed again after that. The Comet takedown took the Defenders right back to where they ended their season last year— the Tyson Events Center in Sioux City.

“To be able to host the first two games of the national tournament was really a blessing … then to be able to cut down the net in our own gym, it was just really great,” Harmsen said.

The Defender women traveled to Sioux City intent on taking the floor for the late game at 8 p.m. against Montana Western. But what was originally late just kept getting later. Officials discovered water on the wood floor of the Tyson around 3 p.m., following one of the afternoon games of the round of 16.

What was thought to cause only a small delay ended up making quite the splash, as the Thomas More vs. Cumberlands game, set to start at 6 p.m., got delayed a few times, eventually getting underway two and a half hours later than the original start time. Late night with the Defenders took on a new meaning, with the game tipping off at 10:30 p.m.

“Although it threw off our typical game routine, we adapted and stayed focused. I think some of us were excited to play that late, and it added to the suspense of the game,” senior forward Karly Gustafson said.

Tip-off finally came, and a roar of sound came from the crowd of Dordt fans dressed in varying shades of black. There wasn’t a quiet moment with the student section situated directly behind Dordt’s bench, making sure to have their presence known. Professors, parents, and friends filled the other rows of Dordt’s section, displaying wide smiles to cover up their tired eyes.

Both teams came to compete. Dordt started off hot, going on a 6-0 run that put them up 12-7. But Montana Western responded with an 8-0 run that gave them the lead. After two triples, one by junior Macey Nielson and another by junior Faith Van Holland, Dordt ended the first quarter up 22-17. It looked promising.

A few minutes into the second quarter, Dordt grabbed their biggest lead of night at 27-21, but again Montana Western responded. After three lead changes and a tie, Dordt led 41-39 at half.

The second half ended up being an uphill battle for the Defenders. Montana Western had a lead of 64-54 with 2 minutes left in the third quarter, but Dordt rallied and got it to 65-61 heading into the fourth. Dordt trailed by just 3 points with 1:47 left, but they could never close the gap against the high-percentage 3-point shooting of Montana Western, taking the loss 89-79.

“We were all disappointed that the season ended sooner than we thought,” Gustafson said. “But we couldn’t hang our heads too low because we still had an amazing season.”

A team that boasted a regular season GPAC title, a second team All-American in Gustafson, an honorable mention All-American in senior Bailey Beckman, GPAC coach of the year in Harmsen, and 11 NAIA Scholar Athletes still had to swallow something no team ever wants to— a loss sooner than they hoped.

“After the final buzzer sounds, there’s nothing you can do about the outcome anymore,” Harmsen said. “But this team has developed the idea that your purpose has got to be greater than any goal you have, and our purpose to glorify God and be a representative of Christ’s kingdom far outweighs a loss to Montana Western in the sweet 16.”

Photo credit: Dordt University Athletics

Leave a Comment or Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s