For the second straight season, the Raider women finished as semifinalists at the NAIA Division II National Tournament. Northwestern went 3-1 in Sioux City, with wins over Olivet Nazarene, #20 Indiana Wesleyan and #5 College of the Ozarks, and a loss to #1 Concordia. With a final record of 29-5, NW finished the year with an exciting run at Nationals.
The first round saw the first-seeded Raiders face Olivet Nazarene. Junior Anna Kiel and senior Kassidy DeJong each scored 18 points in a 93-80 win. After trailing 13-5, senior Darbi Gustafson sparked a 15-2 run to earn a five-point lead after the first quarter. The Raiders held the lead for most of the game, having an advantage of 16 on multiple occasions late in the fourth quarter. In addition to shooting 55 percent from the field, NW forced the Tigers to a 39 percent mark.
In the second round, NW defeated Indiana Wesleyan 83-70. The Raider women started the game on a 15-5 run and led by as much as 16 before IWU brought the game within three with 41 seconds to go in the first half. DeJong scored 20 points to go along with 17 from sophomore Sammy Blum. Blum was 5-5 on three-point attempts as the Raiders went 8-10 from beyond the arc.
NW faced College of the Ozarks in the quarterfinals in what was one of the most exciting games of the National Tournament. After Gustafson received the ball in the lane with less than one second remaining, the senior post nailed the game-winning shot to send the Raiders to the semifinals. However, the excitement did not start at that moment. NW was trailing by 17 with 4:40 in the third quarter and used a series of scoring runs to earn the win. An 11-0 run near the beginning of the fourth quarter brought the Raiders within two points. With 10 seconds remaining, Ozarks took a 70-69 lead, which was quickly lost as the Raiders won in exciting fashion.
“I know everyone is going to think of that last shot, but anyone who knows basketball knows it doesn’t just boil down to one play,” Gustafson said, “It’s a continual grind and effort, and I’m really proud of our team for coming back the way we did.”
After falling behind by 18, NW fought back against Concordia in the National Semifinals. The Raiders’ season came to a close, however, as the Bulldogs were victorious, 82-79. This was the final game for seniors Haley Birks, Gustafson and DeJong.
“My time at NW has been such a blessing. It has been so fun to play with a group of girls who love the game of basketball just as much as I do,” Gustafson said.
Post season honors include DeJong being named to the NAIA All-American First Team and Gustafson a Third Team All-American. DeJong (First Team) and Gustafson (Second Team) were also named to the NAIA Division II All-Tournament Team.