April 17, 2024

Double the fun for Fields family

Former Panthers in national tournaments

Grand View basketball player Brianna Fields (left) and Northwest Missouri State University player Kelsey Fields (right) joined their family for Easter weekend in Creston. Shown from left are Brianna, Bryce, parents Dan and Rebecca, Ryan, Hudson and Kelsey.

Creston girls basketball not only had two graduates playing in national tournament games on the same day last month, they come from the same family.

On March 15, Northwest Missouri State University junior Kelsey Fields played for the Bearcats in a 62-47 loss to conference rival Fort Hays State in the Central Region quarterfinal round of the NCAA Division II Tournament at Bethany, Oklahoma.

Her sister Brianna is a sophomore member of the Grand View University team that played on the same day in Madison, South Dakota in the opening round of the Cramer Quadrant of the NAIA women’s national tournament. Indiana South Bend defeated the Vikings, 72-53.

The losses culminated historic seasons for both squads. It was Northwest’s first national tournament appearance since 2011, finishing at 23-8 for the season. Grand View, meanwhile won its first Heart of America Tournament since becoming a member of the conference before ending its 27-5 season in the NAIA national opener.

“First and foremost, they both put A LOT of time in to be successful,” Creston coach Tony Neubauer said. “I have vivid memories of when things first opened back up in July of 2020 when Covid was going. Sam (Dunphy), Kelsey, Bri and Doryn (Paup) all spent a lot of time in the gym that summer. And, there have been countless times when Kelsey and Bri got ahold of me to open up the gym to get extra time in. They still do that when they are home on breaks.”

Northwest’s NCAA loss came against a familiar opponent. The Bearcats got off to a hot start at home in beating Fort Hays State during the conference season, but lost two other encounters in both the regular season and in the semifinals of the Mid-American Intercollegiate Athletics Conference (MIAA).

Creston's all-time leading scorer and rebounder, Kelsey Fields (15) battles for rebound position during a Northwest Missouri State home victory over Fort Hays State in February. Fort Hays State later defeated the Bearcats in both the semifinals of the MIAA tournament and the first round of the NCAA Division II national tournament.

The Bearcats suffered through a 30.8% shooting night from the field in falling to the Tigers in the NCAA tournament. Northwest trailed 26-22 at halftime before being outscored 36-25 in the second half. Kelsey Fields scored four points with a team-high 10 rebounds and one blocked shot. It was the 13th game that Fields either led or tied for the lead in rebounds for the Bearcats.

“They played well and we were not getting anything to fall for us,” Kelsey said.

Lost from the Bearcats starting lineup late in the regular season was forward Emma Atwood of Central Decatur, who had battled back from two previous knee injuries. This time, the surgery timetable ended her career before the team’s tournament run.

“She’s gotten hurt basically every year, so it was painful to see her go through that again,” Kelsey said.

For the season, Fields played in 30 games with 12 starts for the Bearcats. She averaged 7.7 points and 6.8 rebounds per game, playing 18 minutes a game. Fields shot 55.8% from the field and ranked second on the team with 19 blocked shots. Senior post player Jayda Green led the team with 55 blocks.

Green is the only player graduating from the starting lineup, leading to high expectations when Fields begins her senior season next fall.

“It was a really fun season,” Kelsey said. “Next year we’re talking conference championship, and getting back to the (national) tournament.”

Kelsey is Creston’s career scoring (1,319 points) and rebounds (1,019) leader.

Meanwhile in South Dakota, Grand View had high hopes for its national tournament opener after winning the conference tournament in a 65-62 victory at home over Benedictine, which had upset regular-season champion and defending national champion Clarke University in the semifinals.

Brianna Fields did not play in the national tournament loss to Indiana South Bend, but did appear in the conference semifinal victory over Mid-American Nazarene. In the opening round of the league tourney against Peru State, which included Samantha Stewart of Mount Ayr, Fields had two points, one rebound and one assists in six minutes of the 86-77 victory.

Grand View's Brianna Fields of Creston (right) defends the post during a Heart of America Conference Tournament victory over Peru State. The Vikings won the league tourney to earn an automatic bid to the NAIA national tournament.

For the season, Brianna Fields averaged two points and 1.3 rebounds in an average of six minutes per game in her sophomore season. She made 9 of 12 free throws while shooting 46.4% from the field. She made 2-of-5 from behind the arc.

Brianna said the national tournament loss was an uncharacteristic performance for the Vikings, who trailed 37-21 at halftime.

“We just had a bad day,” she said. “We didn’t shoot well and they were finishing well on drives to the basket. Still, it was our best season since 2011 and our first conference title. It was a good experience.”

With Kelsey a fixture in the Bearcats’ main rotation, Brianna Fields understood why parents Dan and Rebecca were in Oklahoma for Northwest’s game on March 15. The family did attend several Grand View games during a busy winter, which also included her father’s work as a basketball official on nights when the sisters weren’t playing.

“Mom and dad come to as many games as possible, which I’m very thankful for!” Brianna said. “It was a crazy, but fun season for all of us.”

Both sisters were able to see each other play a few times during their busy winters.

“I went to three of her games this year,” Kelsey said. “It’s kind of hard. Atchison is only an hour away from Maryville so I got over there. I was able to leave practice and make it to their conference championship game, and that was cool. I feel bad for my parents sometimes, especially when my dad tries to ref, too!”

Brianna said playing 145 miles apart for their home games is a different experience from growing up playing together, especially in offseason club play and on the same high school team that included a pair of regional finals.

“I think I got to watch three of Kelsey’s game,” Brianna said. “I even got to watch their second round game of their conference tournament! It’s a little tough since we’ve played together growing up. Especially since we’ve always gone to the same place to play even if we weren’t on the same team. I’m still glad we get to both be successful even though we’re in two completely different places.”

The period of 2019-2023 was Creston’s most successful stretch of five-player girls basketball with four winning seasons, 51 total victories and two regional final appearances.

“Kelsey and Bri are a huge reason why we had that run, and it is no surprise to me that they are having success and impact on good teams at the next level,” Neubauer said.

Larry Peterson

LARRY PETERSON

Former senior feature writer at Creston News Advertiser and columnist. Previous positions include sports editor for many years and assistant editor. Also a middle school basketball coach in Creston.