Wednesday evening’s GPAC matchup between 2nd-ranked Concordia and 11th-ranked Briar Cliff turned out to be an offensive showcase. In the end, Concordia held on for a 102-96 win behind a career night by Amber Kistler and unbelievable 3-point shooting by the entire Bulldog team. It was the 12th straight win for Concordia, who improved to 25-2 overall and 15-2 in conference play. Briar Cliff, who was 9-1 at home entering Wednesday’s contest, dropped to 20-7 (11-6 GPAC) on the year.
Concordia, who came into the game allowing just 58.7 points per game on the year, allowed 58 points in the first half alone. Both teams shot over 50 percent in the opening half. Briar Cliff led from the start and led by as many as 10 in the first half. BCU was 21-of-36 (58.3 percent) from the field. The Chargers went 13-of-18 from the foul line and scored 20 paint points to take a 58-51 halftime lead.
Kelsey Evans and Kylie Dilla combined for 23 first half points for BCU. Concordia was 51.5 percent from the field overall, and 7-of-10 shooting from long range kept the Bulldogs in the game. Kristen Conahan (Omaha, Neb.), Amber Kistler (Minatare, Neb.) and Bailey Morris (Roseland, Neb.) all reached double figures for the Bulldogs in the opening half.
Briar Cliff built their lead to 13 in the opening minutes of the second half, but Concordia didn’t go away. A run sparked by more hot shooting from the outside pulled the Bulldogs back within five (70-65) with 13 minutes remaining in the contest. Later in the half, a made free throw by Jericca Pearson (Gibbon, Neb.) and a 3-pointer by Kistler pulled the Bulldogs back within one (73-72), but Evans scored on a layup to push the BCU lead back to three. Kistler again responded with a jumper to pull the Dogs back within one, but a layup by Kristen Twait again gave BCU a three point advantage. Another layup increased the Charger lead back to five, and Evans followed with a 3-pointer to give Briar Cliff an 82-74 lead with less than 10 minutes remaining.
Concordia caught a break, as Evans picked up two quick fouls to foul out of the game with around nine minutes left in the contest. She fouled out with 20 points on the night, and the Bulldogs took full advantage. The BCU scoring run was stopped with a pair of made free throws by Tracy Peitz (Hartington, Neb.). Lori Laboda (Parker, Colo.) followed with made free throws to cut the Charger lead to four. BCU answered once again, however, and five quick points pushed the lead back to nine.
Kistler took over from there and pulled Concordia within three (87-84) with back-to-back 3-pointers. Following a made free throw by BCU, Pearson scored in the paint to pull Concordia within two (88-86) with six minutes remaining. A made free throw by Katie Rich (Tilden, Neb.) cut the deficit to one. Following a made free throw by BCU, a long jumper by Laboda tied the game at 89-89. A made free throw by Rich gave Concordia its first lead (90-89) with 4:25 remaining. The lead didn’t last long, however, as a pair of made free throws reclaimed the lead for the Chargers with four minutes to play.
Another 3-pointer by Kistler gave Concordia a 93-91 advantage. Dilla knocked down a pair at the line to tie the game once again, but Kistler’s eighth 3-pointer of the night gave CU a 96-93 lead. BCU hit a free throw to pull within two, but Morris scored a big basket in the lane to push the Bulldog lead back to four. Kistler put the game away with free throws in the closing minute, and the Bulldogs secured the 102-96 victory.
Kistler poured in a career-high 37 points and was a perfect 8-of-8 from long range on the evening. The senior was 10-of-11 from the field overall and 9-of-10 at the foul line. She also added eight rebounds, four assists and three steals. Morris and Conahan added 19 and 18 points, respectively. Conahan also had six steals. The Bulldogs were 17-of-24 (70.8 percent) from long range in the victory. Concordia was 32-of-61 from the field overall. Following the game, Bulldog head coach Drew Olson discussed the maturity and toughness of his team.
“Tonight was a tremendous GPAC basketball game,” said Olson. “They have such a solid team, and they had answers for every run we had in the first 36 minutes of the game. We just hung in there. We hit a ton of big shots throughout the game and especially in the second half. We kept trying to defend, and we finally got some stops when we really needed them late. I’m really proud of the maturity shown by our team again tonight.”
Briar Cliff placed six players in double figures. Evans led the way with her 20. Dilla scored 16 and added five assists, while Kela Cihak delivered 14 points. Sara Reeves and Twait added 12 points apiece, and Megan Salcedo also reached double figures with 11.
Concordia travels to Dordt College on Saturday for a 2 p.m. matchup with the Defenders. The Bulldogs then conclude regular season play with home games against Hastings College (Feb. 14) and Mount Marty College (Feb. 18).