Jimmies women's hoops heading to Sweet 16 against Marian

Mar. 20—JAMESTOWN — The No. 12-seed University of Jamestown women's basketball team is heading to Sioux City, Iowa, hoping to continue their miracle run when they take on No. 1-seed Marian College (Indiana) in the Sweet 16 of the NAIA Women's Basketball National Tournament at 1 p.m. on Thursday, March 21, at the Tyson Events Center.

"We want to play a great game," Jimmies head coach Thad Sankey said. "We got a top-level opponent and you're in the round of 16 in Sioux City, so the competition will be great and it's exciting and it's an awesome experience. But we got here by playing great basketball and that's what we want to continue doing."

The Jimmies' journey to the Sweet 16 saw them take down No. 5-seed The Master's University and No. 4-seed Lewis-Clark State College. The Knights' journey has seen them take on No. 16-seed Florida National University and No. 9-seeded Stephens College.

"It's definitely built our confidence a lot making it to the Sweet 16," Jimmies guard Kate Cordes said. "I think we just trust each other more than anything right now and we've really been working on that in practice, especially overtalking. So I think the trust that we have in each other is building too and that just builds our confidence up that much more."

This season, the Jimmies are 19-12 and are riding a two-game winning streak. The top-ranked Knights are 32-1 and on a 30-game winning streak.

"They've got fantastic players and I think from a defensive perspective their half-court defense is incredibly hard to crack," Sankey said. "We've got a challenge on both ends, getting stops and then on our offensive end, getting the quality looks that we need."

The Jimmies are trying to make it to the Elite 8 for the first time since the 2017-18 season. The Jimmies are led by Cordes' 14.6 points, with Kia Tower and Audrey Rodakowski trailing her at 13.8 points per game.

Despite the Knights being the top-ranked team in the country, Sankey said his team is not letting that intimidate them.

"We've just done such a great job of being (focused) on ourselves and having the intensity level that we need and the togetherness that we need to overcome the adversity," he said. "They're gonna challenge us, there's no doubt about that but are we ready to battle in the middle of the adversity when it really gets tough."

This year the Knights are led by Ella Collier's 19 points per game. Through the first two games of the tournament, the Jimmies have prepared for two teams that they have never played before and that continues to the matchup against the Knights.

"I think it just gives you more encouragement to stay true to who you are as a team, to focus on what goes us there, what got us to the round of 16 and Sioux City and the third round of the national tournament," Sankey said. "What are the strengths that we have as a team and as players and how can we execute those situations the best. I think that's the biggest part about facing a team that you're not as familiar with."

Cordes said the Jimmies need to stay locked in and stay positive to advance to the next round.

"I think personally helping my teammates stay confident in themselves, continue to be a leader on the court in this next game, especially with the ups and downs that will probably happen during the game," Cordes said. "As a team, definitely just staying together, sticking together, that's been our big theme for this year."

This season, the Jimmies and Knights only have one common opponent — Concordia University (Nebraska), who beat the Knights 75-62 on Nov. 4 and split with the Jimmies. Sankey said he has not watched the film from November because it was so early in the season and the Jimmies and Bulldogs are two different teams with different strengths.

"We know what we're doing well," Sankey said. "We're not gonna put in a whole new playbook for us. We've got our playbook offensively from what we've done this season. Yeah, we do want to identify things that we think are gonna work well with our coverages but some of it is also, our defense is a little bit more adjustable to opponents and our scouting reports and how we're gonna play their players. So that's something we shape shift a little more according to who we're gonna see."

Sankey said his team will continue to prepare for the game through practice, the proper amount of rest and watching the film. This season, the Knights are allowing their opponents to shoot 27% from 3-point range. In order to shoot the three at a high clip in this one, Cordes said she and her teammates have to just keep throwing them up.

"I guess just keep shooting," Cordes said. "One of the big things that we do well as a team is shooting the three. We're definitely gonna have to work on penetrating, kicking, finding our teammates, that's gonna be a big thing in this game and continuing to shoot even if some of our early looks don't go in."