Players and coaches for the Hastings College women's basketball team were all smiles Saturday afternoon as the final buzzer sounded, signaling their 76-63 win over NAIA Division II No. 9 Northwestern at Lynn Farrell Arena.
It was a momentous win for the Broncos this season and the fans in attendance, including a larger number of former HC women's basketball players who had gathered in town for a reunion, recognized the team's efforts with a standing ovation.
"We've been close in several games this season, battling some of the top teams in the conference — we took Briar Cliff to overtime (last week) — but we haven't been able to finish; we haven't been able to put a full 40 minutes together before," said first-year HC head coach Carrie Hofstetter, who had a number of former players she played with and coached as an assistant in the stands watching Saturday. "To play like we did for a full 40 minutes and beat a top-10 team like this, it has to give the kids a lot of confidence. They've been working hard and have shown a lot of improvement, but you don't think you're improving until you can get a big win like this. That just validates that."
Hastings needed a big game from its biggest player — 6-foot-4 junior center Laurel Zwiener — and strong efforts from a number of players to capture the win, and avenge a 32-point loss suffered at the hands of the Red Raiders in Orange City, Iowa, in December. It's just the second win for the Broncos, who improved to 12-12 overall and 7-7 in the GPAC, against a top-25 opponent this season, as the team defeated then-No. 24 Dakota Wesleyan Jan. 13.
HC men come up short against Red Raiders
The door remained open at halftime Saturday for the Hastings College men's basketball team to walk out of Lynn Farrell Arena with a win against a top-10 team.
Northwestern slammed it shut in the second half for a 90-78 conference victory.
HC, entering the game ranked 25th in NAIA Division II, controlled the first-half action against the No. 8 Red Raiders. At the break, the Broncos owned a 39-33 lead and held the advantage in rebounds and free throws.
Northwestern seized the momentum four minutes into the second half and grabbed the lead for good with six minutes left.
"The biggest thing was that we were playing aggressive in the first half," HC coach Lance Creech said. "I was very pleased at halftime with the numbers we had — more free throws and rebounds. But those things dwindled. (Northwestern) became the aggressors."
Northwestern's win, combined with Doane's loss Saturday to Dakota Wesleyan, vaulted the Red Raiders into first place in the Great Plains Athletic Conference standings at 17-5 overall and 11-3 in the GPAC.
HC fell to 17-7 for the season and 8-5 in the GPAC. The Broncos are fifth place in the conference standings, 1 1/2 games behind Midland (15-8, 10-5). HC hosts Midland Wednesday. Midland owns a four-game win streak.