Defense leads GVSU to season-opening win

GVL / Jessica Hollenbeck

Junior Kellie Watson makes a move past her defender.

GVL / Jessica Hollenbeck Junior Kellie Watson makes a move past her defender.

Jay Bushen

The preseason emphasis on defense paid off for the Grand Valley State University women’s basketball team on Monday.

GVSU won 68-50 in its home opener against Olivet College, forcing 30 turnovers in the game.
Head coach Janel Burgess was pleased with the Lakers’ defensive pressure.

“We created 30 turnovers, which was tremendous,” Burgess said. “Obviously we didn’t turn those into as many fast-break points as we would like to, but I liked the way we were be able to pull together defensively.”

GVSU struggled offensively to start the game, and with 7:30 remaining in the first half, the Lakers trailed 17-13.

Against an Olivet team that returned all five starters, the Lakers relied upon a pair of senior leaders to get things going.

Alex Stelfox and Lauren Stadola, who both missed significant time due to injury last season, wouldn’t allow the team to lose focus.

“It was great to see Stodola and Stelfox back,” Burgess said. “They had a sense of urgency with them and they both played extremely hard. Top to bottom, I thought all of our seniors played really focused and united.”

Stelfox led GVSU with eight first-half points, and the Lakers held a 27-21 lead at the break. She finished the game with 14 points, five rebounds, four steals, and two blocks.

“In the beginning, our shots weren’t going in,” Stelfox said. “It was our first game — we were all a little nervous. In the second half, I thought things looked a lot better. We looked patient and our shots were going in.”

The Lakers’ bench was called upon to provide an offensive spark, and the call was answered.

GVSU’s bench scored 18 second-half points, which helped the Lakers take a 48-37 lead with 9:17 left in the second half. Sophomore Kat LaPrairie stood out, connecting on three of four shots from behind the arc. She finished the game with 11 points.

“I’m excited to see that we have some people that can come off the bench and really produce,” Burgess said. “Our depth gives us a great advantage.”

Hitting four of their final six threes, GVSU took a commanding 55-41 lead with 4:26 to play. They made all of their second-half free throws, and finished the game shooting 12-13 from the line.

Lauren Stodola had a game-high 15 points, but said she was still not pleased with the team’s overall defensive performance despite forcing so many turnovers.

“We gave up too many points,” Stodola said. “We have a lot of little things, like help-side defense, that we still need to clean up a little bit. It’s a work in progress. It’s good to get the win even though it’s ugly, but we can definitely learn a lot of things.”

GVSU will play their next four games on the road, starting in Washington D.C. against the District of Columbia on Nov. 17.
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