One year ago, Jimmie women's basketball was on the outside looking in at the postseason.
A far from perfect 2019-20 regular-season came to a close for the University of Jamestown following Saturday's 76-66 loss to No. 2-ranked Concordia University (Nebraska). But at 9-13 in the conference, the Jimmies have given themselves a shot at playing the spoiler in next week's GPAC postseason tournament.
Jamestown has earned the No. 7 seed in the eight-team playoff and will be traveling to play No. 4-ranked Hastings, Nebraska, in Wednesday's opening round. The Jimmies have lost twice to Hastings this season: 77-52 and 65-51.
"We ran with them the first three quarters the last game, so I think it's anybody's shot," said UJ senior Courtney Mosloski. "We've had our ups and downs."
Saturday against the defending NAIA Divison II national champion Bulldogs was actually more up than down. Jamestown was finding spurts of offensive efficiency, riding the hot hand of freshman Macy Nilsen's 19 points and 4-for-6 3-pointer shooting.
Nilsen buried three 3s in the first half, as Jamestown shot 53% from the field (10 of 19) and trailed just 39-34 after two quarters. UJ even led by as many as five (13-8) following a 10-0 first-quarter run capped by one of three Emma Stoehr 3-pointers.
"The ability to make a shot is always needed," said UJ women's basketball coach Thad Sankey. "We've created good shots in the second semester. We've done an awesome job of getting to the rim, getting open kick-outs ... we need to make 'em, and Macy did that for us tonight. She stepped up in a big game, against a big-time opponent and was able to help us with that."
UJ has averaged 21.8 turnovers per game this season, but scoring has really been the team's bugaboo. The Jimmies were ranked 108th in the country in field goal percentage entering Saturday (.364) and 101st in 3-point percentage (.282).
Concordia forced UJ into 33 turnovers, but that's what the Bulldogs do. Concordia (28-2, 21-1 GPAC) was averaging 20.9 steals per contest and was plus 15 in turnover margin heading into the weekend. The Bulldogs came away with 17 steals at Harold Newman Arena but were put on a terrible offensive afternoon by the Jimmie defense.
Concordia was held to just 36% from the field (22 of 62), with first-team All-American Philomena Lammers leading the visitors in scoring with 18. The win cemented another regular-season Great Plains Athletic Conference championship for Concordia. The Bulldogs have topped the league standings four straight years -- seven times all told -- sharing the honor with Northwestern College last winter.
Concordia blew out the Jimmies 105-56 in Seward, Nebraska, on Jan. 11, forcing 38 turnovers.
"I thought we did a great job of controlling the tempo. Obviously, when you turn the ball over that many times we had stretches where we didn't make good decisions," Sankey said. "But it wasn't because we were out of control. At times you're just at the end of a clock and you're trying to squeeze something in, or it's just a little bit too tight of a window and you just throw a bad pass."
"I feel like that was a much better effort to problem-solve their pressure than we did down there and it showed just in the comfortability that we had and the confidence that we had."
Back to back Nilsen buckets got the Jimmies to within a point at 48-47 in the third quarter, but a 9-0 Concordia run thereafter helped the visitors push the lead back out to as many as 11 in the fourth. The contest was the final home game for seniors Mosloski, Olivia Anderson and Paige Schmidt.
"We had it in our heads just to go out and have fun," said Mosloski, who guarded Lammers and finished with 10 points and six rebounds. "I mean, it's our senior night and we don't really have anything to lose, so we just kinda gave it our all and just had fun with it."
Jamestown has played Hastings (28-2, 20-2 GPAC) tough twice this season. A fourth-quarter, 14-1 run by the Broncos broke up 43-43 tie game in Hastings on Feb. 8.
"It's a matchup that we feel confident with," Sankey said. "Obviously, they've got great players, they've had a great season. But at the same time, we were really happy with our first three quarters down there and really it's just about taking a finish all the way to the wire.
"It's going to take a great game to win, on the road in the playoffs. We're going to give it our shot and be the best team there."
(2) Concordia University 76, (RV) University of Jamestown 66
CU 17 22 18 19 -- 76
UJ 15 19 19 13 -- 66
CU -- Philomena Lammers 18, Grace Benz 17, Colby Duvel 14, Mackenzie Koepke 12, Riley Sibbel 10, Chloe Schumacher 3, Delani Fahey 2. Totals: 22-62 FG, 7-25 3-pointers (Koepke 3, Sibbel 2, Barry, Schumacher), 25-36 FT, 34 Rebounds (Lammers 6), 20 Fouls (Lammers), 12 Assists (4 with 2), 14 Turnovers, 3 Blocks (Lammers 2), 17 Steals (Lammers 5).
UJ -- Macy Nilsen 19, Hannah DeMars 10, Courtney Mosloski 10, Emma Stoehr 9, Kia Tower 8, Olivia Anderson 4, Mackensi Higlin 3, Noelle Josephson 2, Correy Hickman 1. Totals: 21-44 FG, 11-25 3-pointers (Nilsen 4, Stoehr 3, Tower 2, Higlin, DeMars), 13-21 FT, 36 Rebounds (Mosloski 6, Josephson 6), 27 Fouls, 17 Assists (Tower 3, Stoehr 3), 33 Turnovers, 3 Blocks (3 with 1), 5 Steals (DeMars 2, Nilsen 2).
Records: Concordia 28-2, 21-1 GPAC. Jamestown 16-14, 9-13.