Hastings College coach Carrie Hofstetter can’t remember such a tight race for the Great Plains Athletic Conference regular-season basketball title.
Four women’s teams have a chance to claim the crown Saturday.
The fourth-ranked Broncos (25-3, 16-3) are tied for first place with No. 6 Concordia (24-5, 16-3). Hastings plays at No. 9 Northwestern (23-4, 15-4).
Concordia takes on No. 7 Morningside (24-5, 15-4). Both games are at 2 p.m.
Four teams — Morningside, Mount Marty, Hastings and Northwestern — actually shared the title in 2007, when all four went 14-4. Because of the head-to-head matchups, that won’t happen this year.
“We can control our destiny,” Hofstetter said. “If we win the game, we win the conference championship.”
All four of the leaders already are headed for the national tournament, but winning the title would bring home-court advantage throughout the postseason tournament. If Hastings and Concordia remain tied, the Broncos would get the nod after beating the Bulldogs twice in the regular season.
Hastings’ strong season may have surprised some after the Broncos went 15-16 last year but not Hofstetter, a former Bronco standout and assistant.
A special group of seniors, she said, bought in to all the changes she’s implemented in the last two years. A good group of younger players as well as some talented transfers created great chemistry.
One of those transfers, Jamie Van Kirk, scored a career-high 30 points in Hastings’ 85-78 win over Midland on Wednesday. Laurel Zwiener, who Hofstetter said worked hard to improve in the offseason, had 23.
“Jamie is such a great player,” Hofstetter said. “She’s versatile, she can score from a lot of different positions. She’s a really smart basketball IQ kid and a great leader. She makes everybody else around her better.”
The Broncos go 12 deep but they’ll be challenged Saturday by Northwestern, which is averaging 90 points a game.
“Offensively, they are really, really good. We have to find ways to slow them, they really like to get to the rim so we have to guard them without fouling,” Hofstetter said.
In the men’s race, Dordt sits in first place (26-3, 17-2) but No. 8 Midland (25-4, 15-4) can break out of a tie for second by beating the Defenders on Saturday at 4 p.m. in Sioux Center, Iowa. Morningside shares second at 21-8 and 15-4. Hastings has lost three straight to drop to 19-9 and 13-6.
Reed surpasses 2,000 points
Senior Nick Reed surpassed 2,000 career points Wednesday in Doane College’s loss to Nebraska Wesleyan.
Reed, a Syracuse native, scored his 2,000th point at the free throw line, where he’s shot 82 percent for his career.
He’s averaging a GPAC-leading 22 points per game with 7.1 rebounds and 3.1 assists. He’s started 110 of 112 games and now stands at 2,014 points.
He’s been playing recently with a mask while his nose heals after getting hit in the face a few weeks ago.
Also a three-time academic All-American, Reed will try to lead Doane into the GPAC tournament by beating Briar Cliff on Saturday.
» Northwest Missouri State stayed in first place in the MIAA with a 70-59 win over Lindenwood on Wednesday.
The Bearcats (19-6, 14-2) take on Missouri Western Saturday, then close the regular season against Southwest Baptist and Central Missouri.
“We have a tough road game on Saturday,” senior Dillon Starzl said. “We just have to come out and attack each game with the mentality that we are going to be more aggressive and fight in each possession against every team.”
The University of Nebraska at Kearney, meanwhile, saw its seven-game win streak end in a 92-83 loss to Emporia State. Freshman Kevin Dineen went 5 for 5 and finished with a career-high 13 points.
» The Wayne State women are fourth in the first Central Region rankings. The top eight compete in the region tournament.
The No. 11 Wildcats (24-3) play Friday at Winona State Friday and Saturday at Upper Iowa. They have a one-game lead over Minnesota State in the Northern Sun.
» York College is first and Bellevue second in the MCAC coaches’ preseason baseball poll.
The Panthers, ranked sixth in the NAIA preseason top 25, won the MCAC tournament last year and advanced to the NAIA World Series.
The No. 14 Bruins went 45-10-1 and 21-3 to win the MCAC regular-season title last year.
» Doane College will be hosting the GPAC indoor track and field championships this weekend.
Multi-events will start Friday at 1 p.m., with the rest starting Saturday at 2 p.m. at Fuhrer Fieldhouse.
Competition will be tough. The Doane women are ranked fourth, Concordia seventh, Hastings eighth, Dordt 18th and Morningside 25th.
No. 7 Concordia and No. 11 Doane will likely battle for the men’s title. Hastings is 14th, Nebraska Wesleyan 19th and Briar Cliff 25th.