Two seasons of shootaround-ending cracks at the Dollar Game are starting to pay off for University of Jamestown sophomore Kia Tower.
Tower banked in a half-court 3 at the buzzer to end Saturday's third quarter at the Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota, highlighting a 23-point afternoon for UJ's starting point guard in a 75-69 victory over the Dakota Wesleyan Tigers.
The Jimmies end game-day shootarounds with a 50-foot shot and an opportunity to make a little bank off head coach Thad Sankey. The Dollar Game involves converting both left-handed and right-handed layups, a free throw, a 3-pointer, and a half-court heave. A successful trip around the gym will earn a dollar from the head coach, while an unsuccessful attempt will grow the pot by a buck for the following game day.
Tower is on a hot streak.
Her half-courter against the Tigers -- part of a 5-for-9 performance from beyond the arc -- was her third consecutive 50-foot shot on target, which counts back-to-back Dollar Game wins at the Corn Palace earlier in the day and at Northwestern College's Bultman Center last week.
"I've been feeling good with my half-courts," Tower laughed. "It's just a game we play every shootaround."
Even with the win, Jamestown is the No. 8 seed for next week's Great Plains Athletic Conference tournament after ending the regular season in a three-way tie for sixth in the league standings with Dakota Wesleyan and Midland. The Jimmies will travel to seventh-ranked Morningside on Wednesday to face the conference champion Mustangs at 6 p.m. in Sioux City, Iowa.
Tower nailed four of her five 3-pointers Saturday in the third quarter, keeping the Jimmies out front 52-47 after leading the Tigers 30-28 at the half. The product of Bigfork, Minnesota, took out a little frustration in the frame after going 2-for-8 from the field and missing two layups in the first half.
"I looked at coach at one point and I was like, 'What am I doing?'" Tower said. "He just told me I was looking at the defense and not looking at the rim. After that, I just kinda locked it in."
The Jimmies put the Tigers on an awful opening 10 minutes, forcing seven turnovers and limiting the home team to 4 of 14 from the field to leap ahead 17-11. But DW would clean things up.
The Tigers scored the first five points of the second before UJ senior Emma Stoehr broke a 28-28 tie in the final minute to give UJ its two-point lead at the half. Jamestown converted 6 of 8 from the line in the first 20 minutes.
UJ's Macy Savela complemented Tower offensively, converting 4 of 6 attempts from 3-point range and finishing with 16 points. Stoehr scored 14.
Savela leveled the score at 44-44 with a triple in the third before Tower banked in her final two 3s -- including the half-courter -- and Hannah DeMars helped the Jimmies close out the win.
Back on the court after missing UJ's last four games to a broken nose and a concussion, DeMars -- wearing a protective face shield -- scored seven of her nine points in the final frame. DeMars also once again led the Jimmies with eight rebounds, a presence that was sorely missed as the Jimmies dropped 3 of 4 without the sophomore from Grand Rapids, Minnesota.
"I think her rebounding a lot of the time went unnoticed and it's just huge for us," Tower said. "And, the scoring. Yeah, she was trying to find herself still ... but her points at the end of the game were huge for us. She scored when we needed it."
UJ finished a stout 10-for-22 from 3-point range. The Tigers, who earned the seventh seed after being swept by Jamestown, will open the GPAC tournament Wednesday against Concordia in Seward, Nebraska.
Dakota Wesleyan was led by Matti Reiner with 21 points and nine rebounds in the loss.
UJ's two losses to Morningside this season are polar opposites, falling 68-61 at home on Nov. 11 and 99-53 in Sioux City on Jan. 27.
"It's kinda been obvious that we've been in a little bit of lull," Tower said. "We (didn't) have Hannah and we've just been kinda in this bad place. So we knew we had a week (between) games and we wanted to come out and get back to what we had been doing at the beginning of the season."
University of Jamestown 75, Dakota Wesleyan 69
UJ 17 13 22 23 -- 75
DW 11 17 19 22 -- 69
UJ -- Kia Tower 23, Macy Savela 16, Emma Stoehr 14, Hannah DeMars 9, Noelle Josephson 4, Audrey Rodakowski 4, Correy Hickman 4, Gracie Bohl 1. Totals: 25-55, 10-22 3-pointers (Tower 5, Savela 4, Stoehr), 15-24 FT, 31 Rebounds (DeMars 8), 7 Assists (Josephson 4), 16 Fouls, 14 Turnovers, 1 Block (Hickman), 7 Steals (Josephson 3).
DW -- Matti Reiner 21, Jada Campbell 12, Haidyn Pitsch 9, Rynn Osthus 9, Kaylee Kirk 8, Natalie Gottlob 6, Haylee Mork 3, Mya Wilson 1. Totals: 27-65 FG, 6-20 3-pointers (Reiner 3, Osthus, Pitsch, Mork), 9-12 FT, 34 Rebounds (Reiner 9), 13 Assists (Kirk 3, Pitsch 3), 19 Fouls (Pitsch), 13 Turnovers, 2 Blocks, 6 Steals (Reiner 4).
Records: Jamestown 15-10, 12-10 GPAC. Dakota Wesleyan 14-10, 12-10.
Great Plains Athletic Conference
Women's Basketball Post-Season Tournament
Quarterfinals – Wednesday, February 24
#8 Jamestown (15-10, 12-10 GPAC) at #1 Morningside (23-2, 21-1 GPAC), 6pm
#5 Dordt (15-10, 14-8 GPAC) at #4 Briar Cliff (16-9, 14-8 GPAC), 7pm
#6 Midland (15-10, 12-10 GPAC) at #3 Northwestern (16-9, 16-6 GPAC), 6pm
#7 Dakota Wesleyan (14-10, 12-10 GPAC) at #2 Concordia (18-7, 17-5 GPAC), 7pm
Semifinals – Saturday, February 27
#8/#1 winner vs. #5/#4 winner, Time TBA
#6/#3 winner vs. #7/#2 winner, Time TBA
Championship - Tuesday, March 2
Semifinal winners at highest remaining seed, Time TBA