Dowling heads to championship game with 76-54 win against Augustana (S.D.)
SAN ANTONIO -- The third-seeded Dowling Golden Lions earned a berth in the NCAA Division II Women's Basketball Championship game with a 76-54 semifinal victory against the No. 6-seed Augustana (S.D.) Vikings on Wednesday night.
Dowling (30-3) will take on the winner of No. 1 seeds Ashland and Western Washington at 8 p.m. ET Friday. Augustana, which upset No. 1-seed Clayton State 81-68 Tuesday in the quarterfinals, finished its season with a 28-7 record.
Augustana kept the game tight in the beginning of the first half. But Dowling, which shot 56 percent in the half, allowed the Vikings to shoot only 29 percent and led 39-27 at the intermission. For the game, the top-ranked defense in DII limited Augustana to 27 percent (18-67) shooting. The Golden Lions also outrebounded the Vikings 47-29.
"They are a great shooting team," Dowling coach Joe Pellicane said. "We pride ourselves on the simplicity of defense.
"The first thing we talked about was a 12-point lead at the half, and their terrific shooting and scoring ability. That lead could have easily gone into a deficit in the first few minutes. The 29 percent shooting percentage means you are not giving second shots. Defending is music to my ears."
The Vikings had knocked off top seed (and previously undefeated) Clayton State 81-68 in the quarterfinals. Augustana shot nearly 53 percent from the floor in that game.
A key defensive player for the Golden Lions was senior forward Danielle Wilson, who played the first three seasons at Baylor. Wilson scored 18 points, blocked six shots and pulled in 10 rebounds for the double-double. Sophomore guard Christine Verrelle also accounted for 10 rebounds, while scoring four points.
Defense played a major role for Dowling in the 60-44 quarterfinal victory against Colorado Mesa, another No. 1 seed, on Tuesday. The Golden Lions permitted the Mavericks to shoot a familiar percentage, 29 percent.
But Dowling also had an outstanding offensive performance Wednesday against Augustana, shooting 57 percent (28-49). Senior guard Connie Simmons led the game with 24 points, hitting 9 of 14 from the field and shelling out six assists. Junior guard Nicole Caggiano was the third Golden Lion in double figures with 13 points.
Simmons is the granddaughter of the late NBA star, also named Connie Simmons, who played for the Boston Celtics, New York Knicks and other clubs from the late 1940s to mid-1950s.
Although Simmons never got to meet her grandfather, his legacy was on her mind.
"There were great stories about my grandfather," Simmons said. "He would be proud of us, and say 'we played great defense and stayed together as a team.'"
Augustana was paced by senior guard Faith Tinklenberg's 21 points, the only Viking to score in double figures. Senior forward Alex Feeney made seven rebounds, while scoring four points.