Simpson Storm, undefeated conference champions


The Simpson Women’s Basketball celebrates an American Rivers Conference Championship win after beating Coe 89-84. Photo by Zach Newcomer

by Jake Brend, Sports Editor

At the end of the third quarter in the American Rivers Conference Championship Game, No. 7 Simpson trailed Coe 64-59. None of the accomplishments from the undefeated 2021 season meant anything while the Kohawks were threatening to steal the championship inside Cowles Fieldhouse. 

Trailing at a crucial part of the game was not a shock to head coach Brian Niemuth, who was named Coach of the Year of the A-R-C on March 17. 

“We’re just that team that goes on runs,” Niemuth said. “We can score a lot of points in a row, but on the other hand we can also hit a low where we have a hard time scoring.” 

Simpson came out of the game firing in the fourth on a 16-0 run, started by a three from senior forward Jenna Taylor, who was named the Most Valuable Player of the A-R-C on March 17. After another jumper by Taylor, a few layups and free throws by sophomore Cassie Nash and a three-pointer by junior Anna Wanek Simpson led 74-59.

Of course, scoring was essential to the run, but Nash, who had a game-high and career-high 31 points, attributed the run to the defensive side of the ball. The guard from Lincoln, Nebraska was also named the A-R-C Player of the Week on March 15. 

“When we get stops and rebounds on defense, it can turn into points on the offensive side,” Nash said. “Then when we get started with (the defense,) the momentum keeps us going.”

One player that was not involved in any of the 16-0 runs, was first-team all-conference senior Cameron Kincaid, who picked up her fourth foul halfway through the third quarter. She sat on the bench and watched as Anna Wanek, a student-athlete that wasn’t cleared to play until late February due to long-term complications from COVID-19 scored a career-high 10 points.

“Being able to be out there on the court and itself was just a huge blessing,” Wanek said.

The 15-point lead for the Storm was quickly squandered by Kohawks as Coe stormed back into the game with a 20-3 run over the last 5:37 of the fourth quarter. Coe’s Molly Buck made two clutch three-pointers in the last minute of the game, one to tie it at 76-76 and the other to give Coe a 79-77 lead with 3.9 seconds remaining. 

“Things [were] looking a little abysmal,” said Jenna Taylor in a postgame interview with 

After a timeout by Niemuth, Simpson had an inbounds play on the sideline to draw up a play to tie the game. Nash got the ball Kincaid at the top of the key with a chance for a tying layup, but she was fouled. 

For the second time in four games, Kincaid went to the charity stripe with under a second left to try and tie the game. Against Wartburg on March 8, Kincaid sent the game to double overtime on two free throws, this time she made both to extend the game into overtime. 

“I kind of blacked out for a second,” said Kincaid in a postgame interview with “[I] didn’t even realize that those were to put us in overtime. To be honest, I was not looking at the score.”

Despite playing just 16 minutes, Kincaid made arguably the game’s biggest shots. Without those free throws, Simpson’s chances of winning the game would’ve sunk to nearly impossible. 

In overtime, Simpson got off to a quick start behind a Kincaid layup and a three-pointer from Taylor before she fouled out with 23 points in potentially her last game in a Simpson uniform. 

“I finally got open for a second to breathe and then hit that one, that felt good,” Taylor said.

From there on, neither team made a field goal but instead traded free throws down the stretch. With Simpson leading 86-84, Nash stepped to the line with 25 seconds left and a chance to put the game out of reach. 

“Confidence has always been something I’ve struggled with,” Nash said. “I feel like after the game last night, ending the season on a win, I feel like going into junior year it will be higher.”

Confident or not, the second team all-conference sophomore drilled both free throws to ice the game and give Simpson a four-point lead. The defense prevailed and Simpson won the 2021 A-R-C Tournament Championship 89-94. 

“It was definitely a feeling I never felt before,” Nash said. 

The team was able to cut down the nets on the south side of the gym, led by none other than Jenna Taylor. 

“It’s indescribable,” Taylor said. “That’s something that we’ve had our sights on since the first day I stepped on campus.”

Taylor made the first cut, then assistant coach Moran Lonning made the last and brought the fully cut net and put it around Niemuth’s neck for the first time since 2013. 

“It’d been a while, it’d been eight years,” Niemuth said. “I forgot what that feeling was like.” 

This title was Niemuth’s eighth tournament title, but this win was more unique than any other due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The NCAA announced on Feb. 3 that all Division III Winter National Championships were canceled, which means that Simpson’s win over Coe is the end of the season. 

“I told the team in practice, this is the first time I’ve ever gone into a game, knowing that it was our last game,” Niemuth said. “Usually if you lose, you’re out but if you win, you keep playing. I’m disappointed they won’t get that opportunity.”

Another aspect of COVID-19 is that no eligibility was used this season, meaning that any senior from the team can return next season to pursue a National Championship. Kincaid, the team’s third-leading scorer, announced post-game that she would be returning. 

“I’m coming back for another year. You’re not done with me yet.”

As for Taylor, no decision has been made despite chants from the student section demanding “one more year.”

“That’s the million-dollar question. I honestly do not know, there’s still some stuff on the administrative side that we’re trying to try to work through. Hopefully [in] the next couple weeks we can get it ironed out and a decision can be made.”

If it is the end for Taylor or any other seniors, they will go out on top as a part of a team that is undefeated conference champions. There aren’t too many student-athletes that get to say that.