Women’s basketball returns to nationals

A women’s basketball season filled with milestones culminated with a triumphant return to the national tournament, where Mount Mercy advanced to the quarterfinals of the NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball National Championship at the Tyson Events Center in Sioux City.

The Mustangs, who earlier in the season became just the fifth program in NAIA history to reach 800 wins, earned an automatic berth in the national championship event by virtue of a runner-up finish in the Midwest Collegiate Conference during the regular season. Grand View, which defeated Mount Mercy in the MCC finals and also won the regular season title, claimed the other automatic invite to nationals.

Just getting to the national tournament for the first time since 1994–95 wasn’t good enough for the 12th-ranked Mustangs. After holding off 22nd-ranked Southwestern (Kan.), 69–67, in the first round, Mount Mercy upset hometown favorite and fifth-ranked Morningside, 79–72, in the second round to advance to the quarterfinals.

It was there that Mount Mercy’s tournament run came to an end with an 81–76 loss to Sioux City’s other hometown team, Briar Cliff. The Mustangs and Chargers came into the contest sharing the No. 12 national ranking in the final regular season poll. Although Mount Mercy’s season came to a close, the Mustangs ended the year ranked ninth in the country, at 27–9, the most wins since the 1994–95 squad went 31–6 and reached the NAIA Division II semifinals.

Emily Greiner (32) and Bria Fields (50) run the pick-and-roll in the Mustangs’ 69–67 opening-round victory over Southwestern (Kan.).

The senior backcourt tandem of Emily Greiner and Micha Mims garnered several postseason awards, including third-team NAIA all-America honors. Both were first-team all-MCC selections as well. Greiner was Mount Mercy’s leading scorer and ranked 17th in the nation at 18.0 points per game. Her 100 3-pointers were third in the nation and set a single-season school record. Greiner finished a four-year career as the sixth-leading scorer in school history with 1,616 points. She left with school records for career 3-pointers (260), single-season points scored (647), single-season 3-pointers (100) and single-season free throws made (193).

Mims, an honorable mention all-American as a junior, also joined the 1,000-point club during her senior season and wrapped up a three-year career with 1,105 points, which ranks 16th in school history. She was Mount Mercy’s second-leading scorer at 14.4 points per contest while leading the team in assists (2.8 apg), steals (1.9 spg) and free throw percentage (83.1%). Mims hit 83 treys, which was 11th in the country, and finished with 188 triples to rank eighth on Mount Mercy’s career list.

Three other Mustangs picked up postseason honors. Sophomore forward Amanda Frost and senior guard Laura Lippert were honorable mention all-conference. Frost was Mount Mercy’s leading rebounder (6.8 rpg) while scoring 11.1 points per outing. Lippert had her best season as a Mustang, averaging 9.4 points and 4.1 rebounds per game. Senior forward Bria Fields was named second-team all-tournament at nationals after averaging 19 points and 8.3 rebounds per contest in three games.