SIOUX CITY, Iowa – No. 3 ranked Saint Xavier University overcame a 17-point first quarter deficit and knocked off No. 2 Concordia University (Neb.), 91-83, in a hot-shooting night for the Cougars giving the program its first-ever appearance in the title game of the 2017 NAIA Division II Women's Basketball National Championship at the Tyson Events Center in Sioux City, Iowa. SXU (34-2 overall) will meet 2016 NAIA national champion, Marian University (Ind.), who defeated No. 1 overall University of St. Francis (Ill.), 64-56, in the first semifinal game Monday. The game will tip off at 7:04 p.m. Tuesday and be broadcasted on ESPN3.
"It's amazing; just an unbelievable feeling," said junior guard Kara Krolicki (Mokena, Ill./Lincoln-Way East). "We still have a long way to go, but we are looking forward to it."
At first glance, it looked like Concordia was going to run away into the national championship ending the first quarter ahead, 28-11, over the Cougars. The second quarter continued to be in Concordia's favor as they sank five three-pointers in the opening half. At the break, the Bulldogs owned an eight-point lead (44-36). Saint Xavier used the half to its advantage as the team readjusted its game plan.
"We went into halftime with the lead cut down. We knew we could do it. We had another 20 minutes of basketball left. The first half we had to get used to what they were doing and settle down and see what worked for us. We were a little calmer," said Krolicki.
With halftime behind them, SXU blitzed the Bulldogs in the third quarter, outscoring them, 25-9, to take an eight-point lead (61-53). Freshman guard Maddie Welter (Arlington Heights, Ill./Buffalo Grove) connected on a pair of three-pointers in under a minute to give the Cougars the lead for the first time. The end of the third quarter revealed the story of that time period for the Cougars as senior guard Mikayla Leyden (Chicago, Ill./Trinity) swished a long-range shot at the buzzer to head into the final quarter up, 61-53.
The fourth quarter saw 30 points for each team hit the net, but Saint Xavier hit 16 three-pointers in the game with 12 falling for the Bulldogs. Saint Xavier shot 32-of-62 (52 percent) from the field, while Concordia went 30-of-67 (45 percent) for its shooting.
"We are full of scorers on the offensive end," said Krolicki. "We used the team really well today and showed that everybody can get the job done."
Saint Xavier was led by Krolicki, who scored her 2,000thcareer point against No. 13 ranked Friends University (Kan.) in the NAIA quarterfinals game Friday night. Krolicki added 26 more to that count Monday with four steals. Junior center Brittany Collins (Des Plaines, Ill./Maine West) continued to be a force on the glass as she pulled down a team-high 11 rebounds – 10 on the defensive end. She also scored 18 points on the night to log her 20th double-double of the season.
Concordia, making its second national semifinal in three years, was led by junior Dani Andersen who recorded a team-high 21 points.
Portions of this release were provided by the NAIA
CLICK TO SEE THE SECOND PHOTO GALLERY FROM MONDAY'S BIG SEMIFINALS VICTORY