SIOUX CITY - Morningside College put the finishing touches on a storybook season when the Mustangs won the NAIA Division II National Championship with a 68-63 victory against GPAC rival Hastings College in the March 17 NAIA Division II title game. The marquee match-up pitted two teams that had combined to win five of the previous seven NAIA II national titles.
Morningside, which previously won national titles in 2004 and 2005, finished the campaign with a 38-0 record, and joined Indiana Wesleyan in 2007 as the
Eighteenth-ranked Hastings was a surprise finalist after a fifth place
GPAC finish during the regular season. The Broncos upset second-ranked
Shawnee State in the second round and No. 3 College of the Ozarks in the
semifinals. For awhile, it looked like they might add top-ranked
Morningside to their list of upset victims when Hastings took a 50-44 lead
midway through the second half before the Mustangs rallied to keep their
undefeated season intact.
Dani Gass, named to the all-tournament team, fueled the Mustangs' triumph
with game-high totals of 24 points and 12 rebounds for her 10th
double-double of the season. The 12 rebounds matched her season's high.
Leslie Foral gave the Mustangs one of her top offensive performances of
the season with 14 points and Roni Miller provided 11 points off the
bench. Brittany Williamson just missed double figures with eight points.
Cherokee native Autumn Bartel, named the national tournament MVP, dealt out a game-high five assists and also had four steals for the National Champion Mustangs.
Lindsay Ducey had a double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds for
Hastings, and she was joined in double figures by Kay Broekemeier, with 14
points, Kim Faimon with 12, and Heather McKeon with 10.
Morningside seniors Gass and Bartel received some additional good news earlier in the day Tuesday, when both were named NAIA Division II first team All Americans.
Gass, a Sioux City native who was also named the National Player of the Year, was named to the first team for the third year in a row. She finished her career as the fourth leading scorer, and second leading rebounder, in Morningside history, with 1,802 career points and 1,094 career rebounds - only the second player in school history to top the 1,000 mark in both categories. She also ends her career as Morningside's all-time leader in steals, with 451, and ranks second in career assists, with 686.
Bartel, the daughter of Dale and Linda Bartel of Cherokee, was previously named the 2009 GPAC Defensive Player of the Year, and was also the Mustangs' leading scorer this season with an average of 15.2 points per game, leading the team in scoring in 20 of their 38 contests. Aside from her scoring exploits, Bartel averaged 3.4 rebounds per game, and finished second on the team with 160 assists and 112 steals, for averages of 4.2 assists and 2.9 steals per contest. Bartel led the Mustangs' starters in field goal accuracy, with 204 field goals in 427 attempts for 47.8 percent, and was also the team leader in 3-point field goal accuracy, with 61 treys in 159 attempts for 38.4 percent, and free throw percentage, with 107 free throws in 134 attempts for 79.9 percent.
Bartel finished her career as the fifth leading scorer in Morningside history with 1,731 career points, and is also the 19th leading rebounder in Morningside history with 476 career rebounds.
In addition to their obvious skils on the hardwood, the 38-0 National Champion Mustang team members obviously possesses some "smarts," too, as evidenced by the fact that seven members of the team were recently named 2009 Daktronics-NAIA Scholar-Athletes.
To be eligible for selection to the team, student-athletes must have the academic status of at least a junior, and have a minimum GPA of 3.50.
Morningside athletes named as Scholar-Athletes include Bartel, a senior who has a 3.81 cumulative GPA with a major in biology; Emily Christen, a junior with a 3.59 cum. GPA who is majoring in mathematics teaching; junior Sarah Culp, who has a 4.0 cumulative GPA, with a major in business administration; Mackenzi Mendlik, a junior majoring in biology (3.5 cumulative); junior Roni Miller, also a biology major, with a 3.6 cumulative GPA; and Brittany Williamson, a junior with a 3.73 cumulative GPA, who is majoring in chemistry and biology.