SIOUX CTY, Iowa – Dakota Wesleyan (S.D.) advances to just its second National Championship in school history by defeating Saint Xavier (Ill.) in the semifinal game of the 2018 NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball National Championship by a final of 81-66. Kynedi Cheeseman had a dominant night, dropping game-highs in points (27) and assists (5). The Tigers went 24-27 from the free throw line to help push them past the Cougars.
- The first semifinal matchup of the 2018 NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball National Championship tournament was between Saint Xavier and Dakota Wesleyan. Saint Francis was the winner of the Cramer Bracket, while Dakota Wesleyan emerged victorious out of the Naismith Bracket.
- Saint Xavier has not been slowed down one bit heading into the semifinal game. Coming into the tournament riding a 17-game win streak, the Cougars were dominant in the first round, defeating Tabor (Kan.) by 20 with a score of 67-47. Moving onto Morningside (Iowa) seemed an easy task, handling the Mustangs 84-71. The quarterfinal match followed the same pattern of dominance shown throughout the tournament, as the Cougars downed Hastings (Neb.) 72-62.
- Dakota Wesleyan could also not be slowed down through the first three rounds. After dominating IU-East (Ind.) in the first round by a score of 78-62, the Tigers handily took down No. 2 seeded Southern Oregon by 15 with a score of 76-61. A quarterfinal matchup against the undefeated and No. 1 overall team in the tournamentSoutheastern (Fla.) Fire proved to be par for the course as the rest of the tournament for the Tigers. Downing the Fire 78-64 proved just exactly why the Tigers deserved to be in the semifinals.
- They say defense wins championships, and both of these teams came out strong in that aspect. Each team only scored two points in the first five minutes of the quarter. But the media timeout struck a match for the Saint Xavier offense. They would finish the quarter on an 8-0 run to go ahead 14-8 after one quarter of play. Second chance points came in huge for the Cougars, notching six while the Tigers has zero. The Tigers shot 0-6 from deep in the first quarter, and just 24 percent overall. Chanel Fanter led the way for the Cougars to take the lead in the first, helping in all categories. The Sophomore gathered four points, a rebound, an assist, a block, and two steals.
- But the Tigers would fire back in the second, tying the game up at 22 with just under five minutes remaining. Kynedi Cheeseman was the only to break that tie, dropping an And-1 to give the Tigers a three point advantage. Riley Osthus leads her team in rebounds and is second in points with eight in each category. Amber Bray broke the 3-pointer dry streak, hitting both of her attempts in the second quarter. The Tigers broke open a five point lead going into the locker room, outscoring the Cougars 28-18 in the second after only dropping eight the entire first quarter. The halftime score was 37-32.
- The third was a game of cat and mouse to say the least. As Dakota Wesleyan lead by five at the half, they continued to hold that sort of lead throughout the third. The Tigers and Cougars went back and forth all quarter. With four seconds left in the third, Kara Krolicki drove down and dropped a three from far beyond the arc at the buzzer to pull within two going into the fourth. The senior guard had 19 at this point, including four made 3’s. But the spread of points for the Tigers gave them the edge. The Tigers had four players with double-digit points headed into the fourth. Another big difference is Dakota Wesleyan’s amount of rebounds. Through the third, the Tigers outrebounded the Cougars 33-18. Going into the last quarter, the Tigers were leading 56-54.
- Another back and forth ensued to start the fourth. And with yet another Krolicki three, the game was all knotted up at 62 with 6:30 to go in the game. But the Tigers grabbed a lead and started to pull away, leading by five with under three minutes to play. The Tigers went on an 11-2 run late in the fourth to pull away even more. Free throw after free throw helped steadily build the Tiger lead until it was 75-64. And with under a minute remaining, the Dakota Wesleyan lead grew to 13 and then the subs came in. When all was said and done, the Tigers won by a score of 81-66.
- Kynedi Cheeseman and Amber Bray both had huge nights to contribute to the win. Cheeseman went 8-13 from the floor for 27 points and Bray dropped a game-high 11 rebounds to go along with 10 points and a game-high four steals. As a team, the Tigers outrebounded the Cougars 43-20.
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