Print by: JOSEPH BROWN
Photos by: AMANDA MILLER
Video by: AUSTIN REMM AND AUSTIN PENFIELD
For the first time since 2003, the final four of the NAIA DII National Championship consists of all Great Plains Athletic Conference teams.
The bad news for Morningside? The last time that happened, the Broncos took home the National Champion title.
The good news? Both times Morningside College has met Hastings College, they haven’t just beaten them; they’ve destroyed them, 73-47 away and 60-46 home.
Today, the No. 1 seed Morningside College Mustangs defeated the No. 3 seed Hastings College Broncos 66-63 in the semifinals of the national tournament, and will advance to the national finals Tuesday, March 17th at 7:05 p.m.
In the first two games, the Broncos struggled in shooting against the Mustangs, going 17-58 from the floor the first game and 15-60 the second game. Today, the Broncos shot 41% which would not be enough to get them to the national finals.
Morningside’s leading scorer, Ashlynn Muhl, who scored 13 points and 16 points respectively in the first two games, did not play today due to an emergency appendectomy earlier last week.
However, they would not need Muhl, shooting 32% from the field and 36% from threes in the first half, ending 38% from the field and 56% from threes on the day.
Morningside, however, has had problems finishing out three game matchups, beating Concordia University in the regular season twice, but losing to them in the GPAC finals.
Coming into the game, the Broncos had to overcome a strong 2-3 zone defense by the Mustangs that has been proven to be an intense, rigorous, complicated line of defense to penetrate.
That defense would end up being too much, holding the Broncos to 25-61 from the field and 5-26 from threes on the day.
Shooting just 43%, the Broncos went in to halftime up 29-28, with senior Jamie Van Kirk scoring 16 of them. The Mustangs went into halftime shooting 32%, and 36% from three, led by junior Jessica Tietz with eight.
The Mustangs, hungry for their fourth national champion title, came out on fire in the second half,
The Broncos, who turned the ball over seven times in the first half, only had three leads total in the first half, 6-5 at 15:49, 27-26 at 2:19, and lastly 29-28 going into half after a field goal by Abby Jackson. At the start of the second half, the Broncos came out hot, going on a 5-0 run to take a 33-28 lead.
However, turnovers and sloppy shooting by the Broncos allowed the Mustangs to get into the game, going on a huge mid half 16-8 run, giving them a 44-37 lead with 11:16 left. Momentum would switch to Morningside and stay there after making seven threes, giving the Mustangs a 50-39 lead with 7:51, and 57-45 with 4:28 left.
Jamie Van Kirk, showing her leadership, perseverance, and maturity, led the Broncos in a late run, bringing the game to 64-63, aided by a huge three by Michaela Barry, in favor of the Mustangs.
In the final seconds, the Broncos were forced to foul. With 2.09 left, Taylor Bahensky missed one of her free throws, giving the Broncos a chance to win the game, with the score at 65-63. However, on the ensuing inbound, the Broncos overturned the ball, and sent Bahensky back to the line for two shots with 1.1 seconds remaining. Bahensky shorted the first shot and made the second shot.
Just like the previous play, the Broncos inbound pass went out of bounds, and the Broncos journey was over, falling 66-63.
Van Kirk would lead the Broncos in scoring on the day, ending with 27 points. Joining Van Kirk in scoring was Halley Samuelson, who ended with 10 points and Michaela Barry with eight on the day.
Carrie Hofstetter, the head coach of the Broncos, said that having a time out in the final minute would have been really helpful.
“It’s just managing the game, we had to take a couple time outs earlier- we were in difficult situations with some traps and not wanting to turn the ball over so we called time out,” Hofstetter said. “It would have been nice to have one in our pocket there, but we didn’t. I thought our kids managed it pretty well on their own without not being able to call a time out there.”
Hofstetter also said making it to this game was a huge journey.
“This is a special team in the way we have come together,” Hofstetter said. “The chemistry of this team is really special. When you think about the mix of kids that we have, we have players that are here that I didn’t recruit, and a ton of freshmen, and some transfer kids, just an interesting mix. It took us awhile early on to find that chemistry and find those roles, and to understand what we were trying to do.”
Hofstetter ended by saying she is nothing but proud of her team.
“After the four game losing streak early in November, it would have been really easy for this team to fold and lose their identity,” Hofstetter said. “Instead, they grew closer together. That says a lot about the characters of the kids, and I’m really proud of them. They really came together and decided they could be a good team, and they bought in, and from there it’s been a fun journey.”
Jamie Sale, head coach of the Morningside Mustangs, said that his team is fully ready for tomorrow.
“They’ll be fine, they’re young,” Sale said. “I might faint, but they’re eighteen, nineteen, twenty years old, they’ll be ready to go.”
The Mustangs move on to the national championship final tomorrow against the winner of the Briar Cliff, Concordia semifinal at 7:05 tomorrow.
Catch up on previous game recaps:
Round 2, Morningside (Iowa): No. 1 Morningside (Iowa) – 74 vs. No. 5 Oklahoma Wesleyan – 66
Hometown Heroics: Morningside Comeback Sends Oklahoma Wesleyan Packing
Round 3, Morningside (Iowa): Game 3 – 6:00 p.m. – No. 1 Morningside (Iowa) – 79 vs. No. 3 Saint Francis (Ind.) – 62
Morningside Knocks Off Defending Champions, En Route to Semifinals
Round 2, Hastings (Neb): No. 3 Hastings (Neb.) – 48 vs. No. 7 Ashford (Iowa) – 37
Barry and Broncos Upend Saints, Heading to Quarter Finals