GVSU women’s basketball opens GLIAC Tournament with 58-40 victory over Northern Michigan

GVL / Sheila Babbitt
Natalie Koenig

GVL / Sheila Babbitt Natalie Koenig

Brady McAtamney

There’s nothing like postseason basketball. Upsets, down-to-the-wire battles and the unexpected can happen in the blink of an eye.

On Wednesday, Feb. 28, none of that happened as the No. 3 seeded Grand Valley State Lakers handled the No. 6 Northern Michigan Wildcats 58-40 in the GLIAC Tournament quarterfinals.

Once again, it was GVSU’s defense that carried the torch for the team as they were able to limit NMU to 35.7 percent from the field and a putrid 8.3 percent from 3-point range. Additionally, the Lakers forced 15 turnovers and scored 16 points off turnovers.

Also, while both teams grabbed 31 rebounds each, the Lakers were ecstatic with their effort on the boards as the Wildcats have eight players listed as 6-feet or taller compared to the Lakers’ four.

“I thought we did three things really well,” said head coach Mike Williams. “I thought we (double-teamed) really well, and I thought we rotated out of the doubles probably better than we have all year. I thought the big thing, we really did a great job on the glass. That’s a big team. That’s a physical team. They’re an athletic team. They got us at every position, and I thought our kids did a great job on the glass, and I thought we did a good job not fouling.

“Now, there were three people in the gym that didn’t think we did a good job not fouling, but hey, they run the show. So, I think we did a pretty good job not fouling them.”

With NMU’s size, they were able to hold reigning back-to-back-to-back GLIAC Player of the Week Cassidy Boensch to 9 points on six shots with four turnovers. Luckily for her, she had a pair of sharpshooting guards to back her up in Jenn DeBoer and Natalie Koenig.

Koenig led the way with 18 points (4-5 from 3-point range), DeBoer added 14 (4-6 from 3-point range) and they each dished out three assists.

“The good thing about Cassidy is she does such a good job of reading her defense, so if a team is doubling her, she does such a good job kicking it out to us,” DeBoer said. “I think that’s a big thing for Natalie, and I to get open shots because (Boensch) sees the floor so well, especially from down in the block. And I think sometimes Natalie (and I) do feed off each other, so if one of us drives and kicks to each other, I think that kind of gets us going.”

It was DeBoer and Koenig who carried the offense as a whole, as the rest of the team shot a combined 3-17 from 3-point range and 10-30 from the field.

“Coaches tell us all the time that we have to hunt shots,” Koenig said. “I think that’s what we’re made to do.”

Elsewhere in the GLIAC, the No. 7 Ferris State Bulldogs shocked No. 2 Michigan Tech—which was ranked No. 20 nationally coming into the game—on the road to move into the GLIAC Tournament semifinals where they will have a date with the Lakers.

The Lakers have beaten their rivals both times they have met this season, including just this past Saturday, Feb. 24, to end the regular season.

“We just played them,” Williams said, “just played ‘em on Saturday, so we’re pretty familiar with them. Obviously, they’re going to make some adjustments against what we did to them, and we’re going to have to make some adjustments with what they did to us. They’re a good team. This conference is an absolute … I don’t know if I can say the word … an absolute bear. How’s that?”

The Lakers will travel to Ashland—which is hosting the tournament semifinals and finals—for Saturday’s game with FSU at 4 p.m., and there’s no question that GVSU is already primed for the big game.

“It’s very exciting,” Koenig said. “You know it was a battle last game and it’s going to be a battle this game. It’s postseason. Anything can happen. Really, anything in the GLIAC, everything is a battle.”