GVSU upsets Michigan Tech in GLIAC tournament

GVL / Luke Holmes - 
Janae Langs (20) attempts to get rid of the ball with her defenders are approaching. Grand Valley had a victory over Lake Superior State Thursday, Feb. 12, 2016.

Luke Holmes

GVL / Luke Holmes – Janae Langs (20) attempts to get rid of the ball with her defenders are approaching. Grand Valley had a victory over Lake Superior State Thursday, Feb. 12, 2016.

Beau Troutman

Janae Langs has been asked to do a lot this season. The junior reserve forward, who has been starting for injured senior Brionna Barnett since late January, was asked to do a little more in the first round of the GLIAC tournament.

So, she did what she’s done all season: deliver.

The junior interim starter sunk Michigan Tech on the road with a clutch 3-pointer with just five seconds left in overtime, as the No. 6 seed Lakers (21-8, 15-7 GLIAC) upset the No. 3 seed Huskies, 65-63. It marked the first time Michigan Tech (19-8, 17-5 GLIAC) lost at home all season.

“She’s a two-sport athlete, and she likes the pressure situations. That’s when she’s better,” said GVSU head coach Mike Williams. “She just let it go, and she said she didn’t know it was going in, but I did.”

Langs only had six points on the night, but it was the final three that were the difference between a win and a loss.

“I’m pretty excited, not too many words to explain how I’m feeling right now,” Langs said.

The Lakers seemed to have the win late in the fourth quarter. Kayla Dawson hit a layup with 34 seconds left to make it 58-57.

Michigan Tech, faced with a crucial possession, called a timeout. With 19 seconds remaining, the Huskies’ Kylie Moxley missed a layup that would’ve given them the lead.

After a GVSU timeout, it seemed the Lakers would play the free throw game. A Dawson turnover, however, gave the Huskies new life.

The Lakers fouled the Huskies’ Danielle Blake, who paced the team with 11 points, 13 boards and four blocks. A perfect trip to the line would’ve potentially given Michigan Tech the win, but she split the pair to send it to overtime.

A three-point-play by Moxley gave the Huskies a 63-62 lead with 18 seconds remaining to set up the final shot by Langs.

“We drew up a play for Piper (Tucker) and Kayla, and we were looking for them to cut to the basket,” Langs said. “We first went to Piper, then to Kayla, and she got the ball and started penetrating, so I shuffled down to the perimeter to the 3-point line. My girl collapsed on her, and Kayla bounced it out to me. I took one deep breath, shot the basketball and the ball went in.

“It was crazy. It was unbelievable.”

The Lakers had been trying to feed Dawson, the team’s leading scorer, in the final minutes and overtime, and it was the attention she drew that allowed Langs to get an open look on the final play.

“Coach Sayers was running some play to Dawson,” Williams said. “He kept going to her, which I think was really smart, and she drew like almost a triple team, she was maybe our best player tonight. She moved it, Janae was wide open, took her time and nailed it. It was just a smart play by Kayla.”

With the big shot, Langs came full circle against the Huskies. In a Feb. 6 matchup, Langs hit a game-tying reverse layup in the closing seconds to tie it up at 55. The Huskies though, would win off of a last second layup by Blake.

This time around, it was Langs who had the last laugh.

“I’ve had to learn through some trials in the first few games,” Langs said. “It’s about just staying my course. I’m not a Brionna Barnett, who’s an unbelievable player. Coach says, ‘You’re different, use your gifts.’ I try to just focus on staying me and being a great teammate.”

Langs has started the last 10 games for Barnett, who is out for the remainder of the season with a back injury. Though Barnett is disappointed she couldn’t lead her team the rest of the way in her final year, she couldn’t be happier for her teammate who has taken the role change in stride.

“It was great, it wouldn’t be better to see anybody else do that than her,” Barnett said. “She works hard, she listens, she’s very coachable, and an even better friend, person and teammate.”

The Lakers will now shift their focus to No. 2 seed Saginaw Valley State, who they’ll face on the road on March 5. The Lakers lost on fourth-quarter mishaps both times they faced the Cardinals this year, and will look to slow down GLIAC leading scorer Emily Wendling (19 points per game), who scored 31 points in SVSU’s 63-40 first-round win over Northwood.

“She’s maybe the best player in the conference, so we’re going to have to find a way to keep her from getting touches, and when she does get touches, we have to contest it,” Williams said.