GVSU women’s basketball season ends against Ashland in NCAA Tournament

GVL / Emily Frye 
Basketball vs Wayne State University at the DeltaPlex Arena on Thursday February 8, 2018.

GVL / Emily Frye Basketball vs Wayne State University at the DeltaPlex Arena on Thursday February 8, 2018.

Brady McAtamney

National tournaments are some of the most exciting events of the entire sports year, especially when it comes to basketball. The thrill of victory and agony of defeat seemingly define the entire month of March, at least for sports fans, that is.

As the No. 5 seed in the Midwest Region following their 25-6 regular season—the third most wins in program history—the Grand Valley State women’s basketball team earned themselves a bid into the NCAA Division II National Tournament. 

Out of their six total losses, three of them came against No. 1 ranked Ashland, two against No. 24 nationally ranked Michigan Tech and one in an early-season loss to the University of Southern Indiana.

After a surprising first-round 75-54 blowout against No. 4 regionally ranked Michigan Tech, the Lakers were unable to continue their season in the Midwest Region Semifinal by falling to the defending GLIAC and National Champion, the top-seeded Ashland Eagles, 68-80 on Saturday, March 10. 

Their short but inspired run started Friday, March 9, at 7:30 p.m. when the Lakers and the Huskies tipped off. Michigan Tech came into the opening round of the tournament with confidence after beating GVSU twice in the regular season. Unfortunately for them, it’s not easy to beat a team three times in one season.

The game started off tight as the Huskies took a 17-15 lead into the second quarter, but that was where their good time ended, as the Lakers outscored them 25-13 in the 10 minutes before halftime, taking a 40-30 lead into the break.

GVSU controlled the second half, as well, sending Michigan Tech packing with a 35-24 beatdown in the last 20 minutes to advance to the semifinal.

Sophomore center Cassidy Boensch was seemingly unstoppable inside, scoring 32 points on 14 for 20 shooting with 10 rebounds (six offensive) and four blocks. Sophomore guard Jenn DeBoer led the Laker backcourt with 15 points (6-11 FG, 3-5 3PT), while backcourt partner Natalie Koenig delivered 8 points plus seven assists.

As it would turn out for the Lakers, though, there was not much time to celebrate, as their showdown with the Eagles loomed just ahead of them. The semifinal against Ashland tipped off at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 10, not even 24 hours after the conclusion of the Lakers’ game against Michigan Tech.

Being the top-seeded team nationally and in the region, Ashland was rewarded as the host school for the regional matches to give themselves home-court advantage. Coming into the game with 69 straight victories under their belts, they also knew what the Lakers were capable of as they nearly saw their historic streak come to an end Thursday, Feb. 15, when GVSU took the Eagles to overtime but eventually fell short in one of the most thrilling games of the entire season.

The Eagles managed to outscore the Lakers in all four quarters of their win on Saturday, but never by more than four points, meaning that GVSU once again gave Ashland a fight.

The last time they had played, it was free throws and fatigue that eventually did the Lakers in. This time, it was turnovers, as the Lakers turned the ball over a whopping 30 times on Saturday, which was the team’s second most turnovers committed in a single game all season. The most was 31 on Jan. 11 in a loss at Ashland.

The Eagles scored 38 points off GVSU turnovers on Saturday.

Once again, it was Boensch who did lots of the heavy lifting on offense, scoring 27 points (12 for 14 from the field) and grabbing nine rebounds. Koenig contributed 12 points and five assists, while DeBoer scored 10.

The Lakers finish the season 26-7 (16-4 GLIAC).