*This story was posted to MyNAIATourney.org on March 14, 2015.
No. 1 seed Morningside eliminated defending national champion Saint Francis by a score of 79-62 in the Tyson Event Center on Saturday evening. Despite the absence of senior Ashlynn Munn, the Mustangs came away with the victory thanks to a double-digit performance from junior Jessica Tietz.
“I’m just really proud of how we played,” said Head Coach Jamie Sale after the game. “I’m not sure any other team could’ve gotten this far without their best player.”
Tietz said it was an emotional win.
“Coming into the locker room after this win, all the girls are cheering, jumping and giving hugs,” Tietz said. “It’s a huge accomplishment to make it this far; a lot of teams dream to be in this position.”
Morningside was in control from the beginning, jumping out to a 12-3 lead with 16:26 left. After a Saint Francis timeout, Tietz continued her dominance by scoring a bucket and the foul to put the Mustangs up nine. She led Morningside with 15 points and eight rebounds at halftime.
Saint Francis star Akyah Taylor got it going midway through the half, leading the Cougars with nine points and five rebounds at the half. Junior Brook Ridley also contributed six points and four rebounds in the first half for the Cougars.
Morningside’s zone defense made the difference in the first half, forcing the defending champs to shoot just 29 percent from the floor and 18 percent from the three-point line.
The Mustangs held a commanding 41-25 lead at halftime.
Morningside continued their strong play during the second half, despite Tietz’s foul trouble. After Tietz sat with three fouls, Saint Francis began to mount a comeback. The Cougars got the game within 12 points before Akyah Taylor went down with an injury. The injury took all the life out of the Saint Francis comeback.
Morningside’s offense stayed in control in the second half, receiving contributions from Tietz, junior Allison Bachman and freshman Madison Braun. Tietz finished with a game-high 22 points and 11 rebounds, Bachman finished with 13 points and two steals and Braun added 12 points of her own. In total, Morningside had four different players in double-digit scoring.
Sale credits his team’s depth in the win.
“I think our depth helps us wear people down a bit,” Sale said. “Most people’s bench is a drop down, where ours stays about the same.”
Despite the loss, Saint Francis received solid contributions from both Ridley and sophomore Paige Frisch. Ridley finished with 19 points and seven rebounds, while Frisch added 15 points of her own.
With the win, Morningside advances to the Final Four. They will take on the winner of the Hastings vs. St. Xavier game on Monday at 6 p.m.