Philly Lammers

Philly Lammers, a Millard West graduate, is averaging a team-high 15 points and 7.1 rebounds in 21 minutes and also is shooting 56.3% from the field. She is fifth in program history in points (1,769), rebounds (915) and steals (306).

After playing 15 games in two months, coach Drew Olson’s Concordia women’s basketball team took Christmas week off.

“The break is a good time to be with family and be away,” Olson said. “It kind of recharges them.”

Olson, whose program amassed a 284-63 record during the past decade, planned to have his entire team back for practice Monday. A few players, though, had a hard time returning to Seward because of last weekend’s storm that dumped heavy snow on central Nebraska.

That’s been one of the few snags the Bulldogs have encountered this season.

Concordia is 12-1 and ranked No. 1 in the NAIA Division II. Five of its wins have come against opponents currently ranked in the top 16, and the Bulldogs’ scoring average (98.5 ppg) is 12 points higher than a year ago, when they won their first national title.

Concordia, which also leads the NAIA in scoring margin (plus 38.4) and turnover margin (plus 18.2), has twice played the team it defeated in the national final, Southeastern (Fla.). Concordia beat the Fire in overtime on the season’s opening weekend before losing 97-72 at Southeastern less than two weeks ago.

“In the long term, it can be an OK thing as long as we learn from the loss,” Olson said. “(Southeastern is) a unique team with their height and their length.”

Concordia also played well in a pair of exhibition games that didn’t count toward its record. The Bulldogs lost in double overtime to Creighton in October, then beat NCAA Division II’s Metro State by 16 in November.

The exhibitions “helped give them more confidence, that they can play with anyone, any time,” Olson said.

In the third quarter against Creighton, Concordia lost guard Taylor Cockerill, its leading scorer a year ago, to a season-ending knee injury. With Cockerill out, Olson said, Concordia lost a player who can create her own shot, but the Bulldogs have used their depth to handle opponents.

“Our depth will keep us fresher, and it wears down teams as games go on,” Olson said. “Our team is deep, we have a lot of similar players. We don’t have any standouts outside of Philly and Grace.”

That would be seniors Philly Lammers and Grace Barry. Lammers, a Millard West graduate who was The World-Herald’s state college women’s athlete of the year last season, is averaging a team-high 15 points and 7.1 rebounds in 21 minutes and also is shooting 56.3% from the field. Lammers is fifth in program history in points (1,769), rebounds (915) and steals (306).

Barry, a guard from Lincoln East, was last year’s MVP at nationals. She averages 12.2 points and 5.5 assists. Nine other Bulldogs average at least five points per game.

Now Concordia is ready for its schedule to ramp back up, playing three top 12 teams over the next seven days. The Bulldogs play at No. 12 Northwestern on Thursday, host No. 6 Dordt on Saturday and go to No. 4 Hastings Jan. 8. Concordia and Hastings are tied for first in the GPAC at 7-0.

“This will be a good test for us,” Olson said.

In other Midlands notes:

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» The Nebraska Wesleyan men played their second exhibition against an NCAA Division I opponent, losing 82-68 at Wyoming on Saturday. The Prairie Wolves trailed 32-30 with three minutes left in the first half and were down seven midway through the second half before Wyoming pulled away. Wesleyan also lost 91-67 at College of Charleston in October. Omaha Creighton Prep graduate Nate Schimonitz, who scored 22 against Wyoming, is averaging 26.5 points a game.

» The Hastings men’s basketball team, which had lost seven of its previous eight, won twice over the weekend at the Briar Cliff Classic. Bennington graduate Bart Hiscock is averaging 21.8 points this season and has 1,650 points in his career. He’s 13th on the school’s all-time list — only three Broncos have scored more than 1,900 points.

» The Bellevue men saw their five-game winning streak snapped Monday with a double-overtime loss to Graceland. Jemeil King scored a career-high 34 points for the Bruins.

» Peru State linebacker Jordan Willis was the defensive MVP in the inaugural NAIA Senior Football Classic. Willis had eight tackles, including a sack, and blocked a kick as the West rallied for a 31-28 win.

» Peru State, which is bringing back cross country as a varsity sport, hired James Cole as its coach.