GVSU downs SVSU in GLIAC semifinal

GVL / Kevin Sielaff - Taylor Parmley (14) receives an inbound pass and looks to post up.  The Lakers defeat the Chargers of Hillsdale College Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016 in Allendale.

Kevin Sielaff

GVL / Kevin Sielaff – Taylor Parmley (14) receives an inbound pass and looks to post up. The Lakers defeat the Chargers of Hillsdale College Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016 in Allendale.

Beau Troutman

Grand Valley State had its script, and knew it well. The game against Saginaw Valley State started just as the first two against the Cardinals had, with a big GVSU first half lead.

In the past, GVSU’s lead had fallen in the final quarter. After outscoring the Cardinals 27-9 in the first quarter this game, it was time for the Lakers to rehearse their lines for the third act against SVSU.

This time, the No. 6 seed Lakers threw out the script, and ran away with a 76-51 blowout over the No. 2 seed Cardinals in Ashland, Ohio on March 5, advancing GVSU to the final round of the 2016 GLIAC tournament. The Lakers will play tournament host and No. 1 seed Ashland in the title game. The Lakers lost to Ashland earlier this year on Dec. 3, 72-65.

It’s the first conference championship appearance for GVSU since 2005-06, when the Lakers defeated Ashland under head coach Dawn Plitzuweit, and then assistant coach and current head coach Mike Williams.

“I thought our players did a nice job,” Williams said. “I thought our kids did a nice job answering it this time. Last couple times, we blew leads, and this time they didn’t, so it’s good to see us finish it and get the victory.”

The Lakers had the edge from the beginning. Two triples from GVSU’s Bailey Cairnduff and Lindsay Baker, and four points from Piper Tucker got the Lakers off to a 10-0 start. That start snowballed into a 27-9 lead by the end of the first, which was capped off by a 3-point buzzer-beater from Baker.

“We knew that we had to play well and take it to them, and that’s what we did,” Baker said. “I think everybody, one through 18, however many people are on our bench, our fans and everyone was 100 percent on board and 100 percent believed we could win.”

Baker paced the Lakers with 15 points on five 3-pointers, which puts her second all-time on GVSU’s single-season record for 3-point field goals. With five more triples, Baker can pass Jasmine Padin (73) for the all-time lead.

Though the Cardinal offense woke up in the second quarter, GVSU — after only scoring nine second quarter points in the last meeting against SVSU — built a 43-26 halftime lead. The Lakers outrebounded the Cardinals 22-12 in the first half, and shot 51.5 percent as a team.

SVSU’s Emily Wendling, the GLIAC’s leading scorer (18.5 points-per-game), was limited to just four points in the second half, and no SVSU player had more than five points.

“We sent doubles to the backside, and just tried to limit (Wendling’s) touches when she didn’t have it,” Williams said. “As a collective group, I thought they did a nice job.”

Entering the second half, it was almost expected that SVSU would come out and cut into the GVSU lead, especially after the first two meetings.

Instead, the Lakers started the second half on a 12-2 run, and spent the rest of the game on cruise control as SVSU struggled to find any semblance of rhythm on offense.

Wendling was shut out in the second half, and finished the game just 2-of-7 from the field. SVSU shot just 29 percent (18-of-62) as a team from the field, and only 25 percent (4-of-16) from beyond the arc.

“Piper Tucker was amazing defending (Wendling),” Baker said. “Piper played, defensively, the game of her life. She let (Wendling) have nothing. We had a game plan to play her a certain way on the low post, and play a certain way on the high post. When she would catch it in certain areas, we had two people coming, three people coming at times.

“It was just executing that defensive plan we had, and kudos to Piper because she played amazing.”

For GVSU, Taylor Parmley had 14 points on 7-of-9 shooting. Point guard Taylor Lutz finished with 12 points, six rebounds and four assists.

Lutz said after last week’s practice, the team knew its play in the GLIAC tournament was going to be different.

“You could just tell when we came to practice on Thursday, we were all locked in and ready to play,” Lutz said. “We had that same focus today, and that’s what allowed us to play great defense the whole time, and our offense played together.”

GVSU will face Ashland in the GLIAC tournament championship on March 6. The Eagles, whose only loss came on a Feb. 4 game against Walsh, defeated Walsh in their second round matchup, 68-59. With wins against the No. 2 and No. 3 seeds, the Lakers will go for the trifecta on Sunday.

“It’s going to be a battle,” Williams said. “We’ll try to collect our thoughts here, watch some film tonight. We had a chance to play them at our place earlier in the year. We don’t have the same players we did then, but we have some ideas how we’ll matchup, so we’ll see.”