SIOUX CITY, Iowa—Despite shooting just 20% in the second half, the Fire were within two points with just under three minutes to play.
Concordia (34-3) scored the final six points of the game, and came away with a 67-59 win in the NAIA Division II National Championship.
The Fire (31-3) started fast, knocking down three of their first shots getting 3-pointers from seniors Jaycee Coe, Makenzie Cann, and Halee Printz to storm out to a 9-3 lead. Cann then made the advantage eight with 7:15 left to force a timeout.
Cann led the scoring for SEU with 18 points, nailing four 3-pointers, and added three steals, two assists, and two rebounds. She was also named to the all-tournament first team.
Out of the timeout, the Bulldogs went on a 17-0 run to take a nine-point lead with 1:34 left in the quarter. During the run, the Fire committed five of their 12 turnovers in the game, and were 0-for-5 from the field.
With 5:41 left in the second, freshman Raegan Linster tied the game at 24 with a layup. Following a steal by Linster, Marlena Schmidt converted a layup to give the Fire the lead back.
Linster had 15 points off the bench, and had three rebounds and two steals.
On the next possession, Concordia answered with one of their seven 3-pointers to regain the lead.
In the final 72 seconds of the half, Cann converted another 3-pointer and Schmidt a layup to tie the game at 37 heading to halftime.
The third quarter, which had been SEU’s most successful this season, saw it go 2-for-14 from the field, and fall behind 56-47.
“I think the culmination of a long season and five games in seven days with an incredibly emotional game can cause some fatigue and I saw us do some non-typical things that we wouldn’t do in those situations,” said coach Tim Hays. “I’m incredibly proud and very happy with our girls’ effort and putting it all on the line this week.”
Down seven with 4:23 left, Cann stepped up with another three-pointer, and Schmidt a layup after the Fire made a stop to make it 61-59 with 2:55 to go.
Schmidt finished with seven points and seven rebounds, earning all-tournament second team honors. Coe also finished in double figures, coming up a rebound shy of a double-double with 12 poitns, nine boards, and two assists.
“What a joy it was to stay out here for the whole week,” said Hays. “Each game had its own battles and its ups and downs, and I was just impressed with the consistency of this team to find a way.