PHOTOS BY BRIANNA TUREK
VIDEO BY AUSTIN PENFIELD
The No. 3 Hastings College Broncos defeated the No. 6 Rio Grande RedStorm today in the opening round of the 2015 NAIA DII National Championship in Sioux City, Iowa, 73-64 after a competitive, back and forth game.
Entering the game, the RedStorm were ranked second in the country in total rebounds, averaging 48.1 per game. Adding to their threat, the RedStorm also averaged 84.2 points per game, keeping the Broncos busy on both ends of the floor.
The Broncos, who entered the tournament with the third at large bid after losing to Concordia University in the Great Plains Athletic Conference, are no stranger to the championship tournament, with 12 previous appearances, taking home three titles, one runner up, and two third place finishes.
Putting their experience to use, the Broncos held Rio Grande to just 64 points on the day, and out rebounded the RedStorm by double digits.
Leading the Broncos in scoring was Jamie Van Kirk with 26 points on the day. Joining Van Kirk in scoring was Chelsey Morton, Abby Jackson, and Michaela Barry, who all ended with 10 points.
While they fell, the RedStorm gave the Broncos a fight to the bitter end, shooting 40% from the floor.
David Smalley, head coach of the RedStorm, said things just didn’t fall into place for them on the court.
‘‘We put them on the free throw line way too much,” Smalley said. “Maybe I could have changed a few things, but they (Hastings) have that ability with a player like 24 (Van Kirk). She kind of put them on her back: when she wasn’t driving or shooting she was kicking it, because we had to spend so much time on her, we were tired and we didn’t board as well as we’re used to.”
While disappointed in the result, the RedStorm leave optimistic about next year.
“Our kids have taken care of all the bright lights and everything, and I’m proud of the kids for just getting us here,” Smalley said. “We will return four starters next year, and we’re improving every year.”
Leading the RedStorm in scoring was Brianna Thomas, who ended with 20 points.
Carrie Hofstetter, head coach of the Hastings College Broncos said that this win is a great way to start their tournament run.
“I thought we were really tough, especially in the end of the game. That’s been the story of our whole season; toughness plays that separate us,” Hofstetter said. “The toughest you saw us today was on defense. Outrebounding them by double digits was huge for us, because we were so out matched.”
Jamia Van Kirk, who led the day on scoring, said that the win was a total team effort.
“That’s what makes us good, not having to rely on one person a game,” Van Kirk said. “We knew we wanted to come here and be competitive, and I think we did a good job of that today.”
Van Kirk, who is notoriously too humble to speak about herself, is vital to the team’s success this year.
“She’s the heart of our offense,” Hofstetter said. “She is a great leader and works extremely hard every game.”
The Broncos move on to the second round against Ashford University, who surprised the No. 2 seed Indiana Wesleyan earlier in the day. They will play tomorrow, March 13th, at 5:15 p.m.