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Grand Valley Lanthorn

The Student News Site of Grand Valley State University

Grand Valley Lanthorn

The Student News Site of Grand Valley State University

Grand Valley Lanthorn

GV women’s basketball wins GLIAC Championship

Bisballe named league POY and DPOY, Williams COY
GVL / Risho Wooten

While winning 14 straight games, the No. 1 ranked Grand Valley State University Lakers women’s basketball team took home the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Conference Championship (GLIAC), beating three opponents en route to their second consecutive tournament title.

After winning 11 straight games to finish the regular season, the Lakers beat the Purdue University Northwest (PNW) Pride, the University of Wisconsin-Parkside Rangers, and the Northern Michigan University Wildcats to sweep the regular season and postseason titles.

The Lakers’ star redshirt junior forward and 2023-2024 GLIAC Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year, Rylie Bisballe, spoke glowingly about her team following the tournament win while deflecting some of the praise.

GVL / Risho Wooten

“Back-to-back. I think that this is just a special group and it’s a special thing. I think we’re all really close off the court and on the court,” Bisballe said. “We don’t just have one player that really dominates.”

Averaging a double-double of 16 points and 10.7 rebounds per game in the tournament, Bisballe was, in fact, dominant.

Still, the Lakers’ tournament success was not without being tested. On Wednesday, March 6 GVSU faced PNW in a matchup that was tougher than the two teams’ records would indicate. The Pride (11-18, 6-12) put up a fight for much of the game in a 65-54 win for the Lakers (29-2, 17-1).

GVSU junior guard Abrie Cabana started the scoring off with a long 3-pointer from the top of the arc, a welcome sign after shooting 2 for 11 from the field and 2 for 8 from three against Michigan Technological University in her previous outing. Cabana ended up leading the team with nine points in the first half.

This was the beginning of a 23 point first quarter barrage from the Lakers, who were once tied with the Pride at 9-9 before they went on a scoring run of 10 unanswered points.

Two free throws for the Pride’s leading scorer, forward Mercedes Simmons, ended PNW’s drought. Simmons finished the day with a game-high 19 points, tied with Pride guard Dash Shaw. Still, the Lakers maintained a 23-14 lead at the end of the first and never looked back.

In the second quarter, both sides tightened up their defense. The Lakers held the Pride to just 10 points, while putting up 14 of their own. With the help of eight second chance points to the Pride’s zero, the GVSU lead hovered around double digits for much of the second quarter and eventually pushed to 13 by halftime.

PNW did not go away, outscoring the Lakers by two points in the second half, but GVSU held onto their lead with the help of redshirt sophomore guard Nicole Kamin’s 18 points. The Lakers won 65-54 to advance to play Parkside on Saturday, March 9.

The game against Parkside (16-12, 10-8) was another double digit win for the Lakers, who held the leading scorers for the Rangers to combined 10 points below their season averages. GVSU did so while Bisballe dominated the matchup, Bisballe tallying 19 points, eight rebounds, and four assists en route to earning her GLIAC Tournament Most Valuable Player award.

After Kamin won the tipoff, the Lakers scored the first basket on a pass from Bisballe to cutting guard Hadley Miller. Miller, recently named to the All-GLIAC Defensive Team for her third-straight season, finished second on the Lakers in points with 12 in the game.

GVL / Risho Wooten

Miller attributed her defensive success to GVSU head coach Mike Williams, who earned his fourth GLIAC Coach of the Year award in five seasons and his third-straight following the 2023-2024 campaign.

“Just taking pride in the basic things. I learned everything from this guy,” Miller said while patting Williams on the shoulder.

Shortly after Miller’s early basket, GVSU went down 4-2, but proceeded to go on a 10-0 run to take a 12-4 lead. This helped the Lakers jump out to a 23-16 advantage by the end of the first quarter.

On the first possession of the second quarter, the Rangers’ leading scorer and junior guard Sheridan Flauger drilled a deep 3-pointer from the top of the arc to make it a four-point game. Parkside then scored on a layup before Rangers’ sophomore power forward Grace Lomen drilled a three of her own to take a 24-23 lead over the Lakers. The Rangers had only led for 15 seconds prior to this when the score was 4-2.

GVSU gave up one more basket, but battled back into the lead shortly after and eventually pushed their advantage to eight points by halftime, leading 40-32.

Miller came out of the break by knocking down a three to open the third quarter, which doubled her season point average of five points per game in just over one half of action, and the Lakers were in full control.

GVSU held the Rangers at arms length for the remainder of the game, giving them a 72-59 win and a spot in the GLIAC Championship game against NMU (21-9, 13-6) on Sunday, March 10.

NMU posed a major threat with leading scorer Makaylee Kuhn averaging 17.3 points per game, but in the most important game to date the Lakers shut down Kuhn and the Wildcats’ scoring attack. The star guard for NMU put up 11 points in the game, having just three points while down by 17 entering the fourth quarter.

In the matchup, GVSU held NMU to 19 points under their season average. The Lakers’ defense may have played well, but their offense’s hot start to the game helped them to grab an early lead. 

On the first possession of the game Bisballe knocked down a 3-pointer that helped spark GVSU to a 15-5 start to the game. Bisballe, who had a double-double of 16 points and 10 rebounds, helped the Lakers to out-rebound NMU by 19 boards. GVSU brought down 42 rebounds to the Wildcats’ 23 in the win.

The Wildcats battled to keep the deficit around 10 points for much of the second quarter, clawing back to a 40-29 halftime score, but the pressure from the Lakers’ defense suffocated NMU. By the end of the third quarter GVSU led by 17 points, and they ended the championship game with a 19-point 67-48 win.

Williams believes that his team’s chemistry and competitiveness are what has made this such a successful season.

“I think, like any really good team, they get along. I think they play for each other. You saw them when a couple players go down, we have players that step up,” Williams said. “And I think that this team is competitive. You know, I think they like these moments.”

GVSU was announced as the No. 1 seed in the Division II NCAA Tournament’s Midwest Region. The Lakers will be hosting the Trevecca Nazarene University Trojans on Thursday, March 14 at 5 p.m. at the GVSU Fieldhouse Arena in Allendale, Michigan.

No. 8 seed TNU (19-11) recently lost 99-58 in the Great Midwest Athletic Conference (GMAC) Championship game to the reigning national champions, the current Midwest Region No. 2 seeded Ashland University Eagles. This sets up a possible revenge game for GVSU against Ashland in the Midwest Regional Championship, where the Lakers lost by just three points after blowing a late lead a year ago.

GVL / Risho Wooten
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About the Contributor
Nelson Hubbell
Nelson Hubbell, Sports Editor
Nelson Hubbell is the Sports Editor for the Lanthorn for the 2023-2024 school year. A senior at Grand Valley State University, before his time with the Lanthorn, he was a staff writer for The Collegiate Live, Grand Rapids Community College's student publication where he was a student for two years. He worked for a restaurant for four and a half years in Holland, Mich. called Hops at 84 East, a place he holds close to his heart. During his time there he was a manager for roughly two years. He loves camping, hiking and being outside in general. He is super passionate about football, basketball, baseball and hockey and loves all things sports and competition. Nelson will be pursuing a career in sportscasting as a play-by-play broadcaster and or as an analyst after his time at GVSU. Graduating Winter 2024 Major: Multimedia Journalism