GPAC's Dordt captures NAIA women's basketball national title behind second-half comeback

Mar. 26—SIOUX CITY, Iowa. — Though more well-known for their top-10-ranked offense that put up more than 82 points per game during the season, the Dordt Defenders lived up to their nickname on Tuesday night.

Top-seeded Dordt held No. 2-seeded Providence (Mont.) without a field goal over the final 3 1/2 minutes, completing a 10-point second-half comeback in a 57-53 NAIA women's basketball national championship triumph in front of an announced crowd of 3,316 at the Tyson Events Center.

It's the first women's basketball national championship for Dordt, which compiled a 35-2 overall record, including a 21-1 mark in the Great Plains Athletic Conference, winning both the conference regular season and tournament titles. Tuesday also avenged the Defenders' loss in the 2022 national title game.

Though Dordt didn't trail until midway through the second quarter, Providence surged to a 27-20 halftime edge. The Argonauts went ahead by 10 points at 35-25 with 6:11 remaining in the third quarter, marking the start of the Defenders' climb back into the contest. By the end of the period, the lead was chopped down to 40-38.

From there, the two sides went back and forth for more than six minutes. A basket by Keanna Salave'a put the Argos up 49-47, but Dordt went on a 10-4 spurt to seal the title. The final point of the championship campaign was provided by Ethan native Karly Gustafson, who connected on a free throw in the waning seconds.

Gustafson, a fifth-year graduate student, led the Defenders in scoring with 16 points to go with five rebounds and three assists, finishing as the school's all-time leading scorer and rebounder. Janie Schoonhoven added a double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds, as Macy Sievers threatened a triple-double with 10 points, eight rebounds and eight assists.

Providence (27-9), of the Frontier Conference, was paced by Ashlee Maldonado, who posted 18 points, six rebounds, four assists and two steals. Salave'a finished just shy of a double-double with nine points and 15 rebounds, and Maddy Dixon had nine points and six assists.