GPAC Rivals Collide In National Semifinals

GPAC rivals collide on the national stage as Northwestern and Concordia play in Monday’s first semifinal at the NAIA D-II Women’s Basketball National Championship. Tip-off at the Tyson Event Center is scheduled for 6:05pm. Both teams are No.1 seeds in their respective brackets; Northwestern comes in with a 29-4 record, Concordia 33-3.

Concordia has won 10 straight heading into Monday’s semifinal, having not lost since the Red Raiders defeated them 81-75 on Feb. 2. The Bulldogs shared the GPAC regular season title with Northwestern and then won the postseason title as well where they defeated DWU on Feb. 26. Concordia is 33-3 on the year.

The Bulldogs eased their way to a 100-62 win over Wilberforce in the first round but were then pushed by Cardinal Stritch in the second round, rallying from a fourth quarter deficit to defeat CSU 82-71. They raced out to a huge halftime lead (43-24) before playing even with Indiana Tech in the second half, winning 75-53.

Northwestern was the GPAC co-regular season champion. along with Concordia, going 19-3 in league play. They lost to Dakota Wesleyan in the conference semifinals and received the first at-large bid into the 32-team championship.

Five Red Raiders received all-conference honors, led by Kassidy De Jong and Darbi Gustafson with first team accolades. Haley Birkswas a second team pick and both Anna Kiel and Sammy Blum were honorable mention.

Wins over Olivet Nazarene (93-80) and Indiana Wesleyan (83-70) in the first two rounds preceded a thrilling 71-70 come-from-behind win over No.2 College of Ozarks in Saturday’s quarterfinal. The Red Raiders trailed by 17 with four minutes left in the third before rallying in the fourth. Darbi Gustafson hit the game-winner on a pass from Sammy Blum off an inbounds play with 1.2 seconds left.

Northwestern is 6-4 in the semifinals, winning in 2000, 2001, 2008, 2010-12 and losing in 2006, 2009, 2013 and 2018.