SIOUX CITY, Iowa – For the second-consecutive year, the Dakota Wesleyan University women's basketball team advanced to the Fab Four thanks to a balanced attack on offense and dominating defense. DWU defeated Taylor University (Ind.) 75-62 in the quarterfinals of the NAIA Division II Women's Basketball Championship, presented by Riverside Technologies and Seaboard Triumph Foods, Saturday at the Tyson Events Center.
The Tigers (31-5) started off hot as Rylie Osthus (De Smet, S.D.) scored the first two baskets for the Tigers. Moments later, Makaela Karst (Plankinton, S.D.) scored an easy layup off an assist from Kynedi Cheeseman (Alexandria, S.D.) and DWU went up 7-2 early.
The defense for DWU proved to be too much for the Trojans (30-6) early on, as the Tigers held Taylor to just two points through the first two minutes of play. DWU continued to shoot the ball well in the first quarter after Madison Mathews (Draper, S.D.) hit consecutive 3-pointers, followed by Sydney Halling (Harrisburg, S.D.) drilling a 3-pointer before the buzzer to give the Tigers an 25-4 lead at the end of the first quarter.
The second quarter was much of the same as DWU continued to make shots and play great defense. The Trojans would not go away as they went on a run to stop the momentum. Down the stretch, the Trojans went on a 9-3 run but DWU maintained control, leading at halftime 37-17.
Taylor continued its' momentum into the second half as they began the third period on a 6-2 run to cut the DWU lead to 16 points. Karst ended the Trojan run with a 3-pointer, followed by an assist to Osthus who poured in another shot from deep to put DWU up 47-26.
The Trojans again cut into the DWU lead with tight defense that led to quick offense as they went on a 10-2 run, making the Tiger advantage 13 points. Freshman Kaylee Kirk (Balaton, Minn.) ended the Taylor run with a 3-point shot. Kirk carried that momentum into the final possession of the third quarter as she knocked down a corner basket at the buzzer to give DWU a 56-39 lead.
Taylor erupted in the fourth quarter for a 10-3 run to slice the DWU lead to 10 points. But, Osthus put an end to the run with a layup to bring the Tiger crowd to their feet. Midway through the final period, Mathews found Cheeseman who connected on the old-fashioned 3-point play with the layup and free throw after getting fouled.
The Trojans responded with a layup and a 3-point basket on the next two possessions to keep their hopes alive. With 2:30 to play, Taylor put a full-court press on to try and force the Tigers into turnovers. But DWU responded calmly as they broke the press multiple times down the stretch.
Following a timeout, Osthus attempted a 3-pointer and missed, but Karst snagged the offensive rebound and put up the layup to extend the lead to 17 points. The Tigers were able to pull away with free throws down the stretch to move onto the Fab Four for consecutive seasons for the second time in program history.
Osthus led all scorers with 23 points on 8-of-16 shooting from the field, while Karst chipped in 15 points, six assists and five rebounds. Mathews tallied 11 points and six rebounds, as Cheeseman recorded 10 points and eight rebounds. The Tigers shot 43.3 percent from the field and 45.8 percent from 3-point range. Defensively, DWU forced 14 turnovers and held the Trojans to 22.2 percent shooting from behind the arc.
"We talked about coming out and just having fun and I think that is why we had such a great start," Osthus said. "This team has gone through a lot of adversity, so it is a special feeling to advance to the Fab Four again."
The Tigers play Southeastern University (Fla.) in the Fab Four at 8:05 p.m. on Monday at the Tyson Events Center.