Photo Courtesy of @cunebulldogs
By Elisha Meyer
A late comeback effort by Concordia University would fail to intervene with the fourth-ranked Broncos of Hastings College, who shocked the top-ranked Bulldogs Wednesday evening 66-59.
With a 20-13 record the previous year, the Broncos were hardly considered to be a contender for the GPAC. That was until a 76-69 victory over then 19th-ranked Morningside College, followed by back-to-back wins in December over top-15 conference foes in Northwestern College and Dordt University. All of a sudden, the Broncos find themselves at 18-0 and at the top of the GPAC standings.
The first quarter gave way to an offense onslaught, with neither team able to come up with an answer on defense. Leads changed as quickly as they were earned, with no true separation. Hastings managed to pull ahead to a 23-20 lead at the end of the period.
The second quarter began in the same way and had the marking of a close halftime score. The Broncos had different plans, as they combined an aggressive defense with a fast-paced offense that shot nearly 50% from the field had some sort of answer for every Bulldog bucket. With under five minutes remaining in the half, the Broncos finally took control, out-pacing the Bulldogs on both sides of the ball. The near-capacity crowd had everything to cheer for with a 42-31 halftime lead.
Offensive struggles defined the game for the Bulldogs. Concordia only shot 36.7% from the floor. It would not get much better from the free throw line, as the Bulldogs made only 22.2% of their first-half foul shots and 43.5% total.
Such a scenario on offense was not unfamiliar to coach Drew Olsen’s squad. The Bulldogs managed only 69 points in the team’s victory the previous week over Dordt University, a total that could have been lower had it not been for Riley Sibbel’s career high 26 points.
While Sibbel was ultimately not a factor, Philomena Lammers regrouped from her two-point performance against Dordt to post eleven points in the game. Grace Barry, the only other Bulldog to reach double-digits, would lead the scoring with 17 points.
Both offenses seemed to stall for the first minutes of the third quarter, but the Broncos quickly recovered to extend their lead to as many as 17 points. The Bulldogs’ offense struggles carried over to the second-half as well to the point where Concordia was fighting to get the score just to single digits.
Leading the offensive charge for Hastings was Gabby Grasso with 15 points, with one-third of them coming from the foul line. Following closely on the stat sheet was Sophia Pankratz with 14 points and Kaitlyn Schmit with 12 more.
The late comeback efforts of the Bulldogs would bring the score within five points multiple times, but was all for naught as the Broncos finished the job on their home court. A deafening cheer from the near-capacity crowd erupted in the final seconds. Hastings coach Jina Douglas expressed after the game how helpful the crowd was in keeping the players’ spirits up.
“It’s nice to come off with this type of atmosphere in this type of game,” Douglas said. “I thought the crowd was great.”
The game served as the most important conference match-up of the entire season. Sole-possession of first place in the GPAC standings now belongs to the Broncos, who have yet to lose a conference game, let alone any game this season. Neither squad had lost a conference game up until this point. The only non-conference loss between the two schools was committed by the Bulldogs in a loss to second-ranked Southeastern University.
Hastings will travel to Fremont next Wednesday to take on Midland University.
The Bulldogs will try to cut their losses in the national rankings this Saturday in Walz Arena against the University of Jamestown.