Seniors spark NCAA automatic berth with 79-68 win in IIAC title game over Dubuque

by Olu Rotibi

After being beaten badly by the Dubuque Spartans on Senior Night, the three seniors and the Simpson women’s basketball team are back in a familiar place.

The Simpson women’s basketball team clinches their ninth consecutive NCAA tournament berth by defeating Dubuque College 79-68 for the Iowa Conference championship.

With a matchup which featured two of the top scorers in the Iowa conference in Simpson senior Kate Nielsen and Dubuque senior Mollie Whiting, another senior stepped up and rose to the occasion.

Kelsie Reeves led the Storm with a career high 24 points while dishing out six assists.

Head Coach Brian Niemuth wasn’t surprised by his senior’s play and leadership down the stretch.

“She just decided as a senior at home she wasn’t going to let us lose,” said Niemuth. “Kate has done a great job, Chelsie and Nicole also have done their own thing, but tonight it was Kelsie who stepped up big time.”

Reeves also shot 8 of 11 from the field while shooting a season high 10 free throw attempts. Kate Nielsen added 16 points and seven rebounds, while senior Nicole Crisp added 15 points for the Storm who won both the regular season and IIAC Tournament Championships for the sixth time in program history.

Mollie Whiting led the charge for Dubuque with another spectacular scoring performance with a team high 37 points. But it wasn’t enough for the Spartans who saw their season finish with a 20-7 overall record.

The Storm (25-2) trailed the Spartans only once all the way up to the 16:00 minute mark in the first half. After that, Simpson stormed away from the on-fire Spartans.

A jumper by Junior Morgan Terpstra gave the Storm a 22-12 lead midway into the first half. Going into the half the Storm led the Spartans 37-25 while only shooting 39 percent from the field. The Storm never looked back in the second half after a three point field goal made by Kelsie Reeves to give the Storm 23 point lead over the Spartans. The Spartans managed to cut the lead down to 14 with six minutes left to play but the Storm’s offensive execution down the stretch helped the Storm hold on to the lead.

Even though the Storm shot 59 percent from the free throw line, they managed to shoot more free throw attempts than their opposition visiting the charity stripe 34 times to the Spartans 8.

Niemuth also was proud of Reeves’s effort not only in the scoring department, but by bringing other intangibles to her team.

“Kelsie scoring not only helped us but her ability to get other’s involved and spread the ball around was huge,” said Niemuth. “Not only offensively did she have an impact today but defensively she was directing traffic.”

Being able to be aggressive both offensively and defensively was the key to the huge free throw disparity between the Storm and the Spartans. Reeves credits her defense in which helped her provide a spark for the Storm.

“I tried to help my team any way as possible on defense by providing energy,” said Reeves. “I tried to find my teammates which also helped us as a team offensively.”

With another automatic bid to the NCAA tournament Coach Niemuth credits his team’s leadership and poise for being consistent throughout this season which separates this season’s team from the previous teams he has coached in the past.

“I’ve never coached a team this young so I was a little worried in the beginning with nine out of the fifteen players who dress were freshman,” said Niemuth. “Our leadership from our returners helped prepare our freshman which all the difference.”

As an additional bonus the Storm have an opportunity to host the first round of the NCAA tournament which will be held March 1-2. The Storm will know their destination Monday Feb.25 at 1:30 p.m. CT when the tournament selection show will air live on