‘Grit’: Langs’ late-game heroics complete two-game home sweep

Josh Peick

With the game tied and the clock ticking to the final seconds, the Grand Valley State women’s basketball team put the ball in the hands of the player who scored three game-winning shots in last season’s Final Four run, Janae Langs.

From the left wing, Langs brushed past a screening Piper Tucker and pulled up to take a jump shot from just outside the free throw line. The shot sailed over a Northern Michigan defender’s hand and into the basket with 3.8 seconds left on the clock, sending the crowd and the Lakers into a frenzy.

The Lakers closed out the final seconds by not allowing the Wildcats to get a shot off before time expired. Langs’ shot capped off the Lakers’ two game sweep of Michigan Tech and Northern Michigan in the final two home games of the regular season.

GVSU beat Michigan Tech 64-52 Thursday, Feb. 16 and Northern Michigan 46-44 Saturday, Feb. 18. The Lakers (20-6, 15-5 GLIAC) moved ahead of Michigan Tech in the standings and one game behind Saginaw Valley State for second place in the GLIAC North Division.

In the first game of the weekend, the Lakers enacted revenge against Michigan Tech after losing to the Huskies on a buzzer-beater earlier in the season. After a slow start, the Huskies grabbed the lead early in the game.

In the second quarter, GVSU retook the lead behind a strong showing from Bailey Cairnduff. On her way to a double-double, Cairnduff finished the first half with nine points and eight rebounds.

“Our guards were really attacking downhill which opened things up for me outside,” Cairnduff said. “Our post players also made really good passes from the inside out.”

After halftime, the Lakers pulled away in the third quarter, grabbing a 14 point lead. Freshman Jenn DeBoer gave the Lakers a lift in the third quarter and finished the game with 10 points. The defense held the Huskies to only 13 points in the third quarter.

“I thought offensively we did a better job keeping our eyes up and making decisions,” said GVSU coach Mike Williams. “(Defensively), we took away the shooters early, which we wanted to do.”

Cairnduff completed her double-double in the third quarter and finished with 17 points and 12 rebounds. While she was scoring on the offensive side of the court, Cairnduff shut down whoever she guarded on defense.

“Defensively it might have been one of the best games she played because whoever she guarded didn’t score,” Williams said. “She was lockdown.”

The Lakers cruised to a 12-point win in the fourth quarter, a rare feat in a game against the Huskies.

“Every time you play (Tech), both teams are locked in and both teams are playing as hard as they can possibly play every possession,” Williams said. “A win by 10 feels like 30.”

GVSU’s momentum did not carry over into the first half against Northern Michigan in the second game of the weekend. The Lakers managed to score only 14 points in the first half, shooting 0-for-9 from behind that arc and 2-for-8 from the free throw line. The defense kept the Lakers in the game only trailing by 10 points after the first half.

“It doesn’t matter how much you’re down, how much you’re up even, we are going to keep fighting and playing hard,” said senior Taylor Lutz.

On senior day, freshman Cassidy Boensch provided the Lakers with a spark off the bench. Boensch scored 10 points in the game and gave the Lakers some height against a tall Northern Michigan lineup.

“It was the most assertive she has been on both ends of the floor,” Williams said. “Offensively, she went at the glass, drew some fouls and made some free throws. That was probably her effort of the year.”

In need of a big play to gain momentum, Lutz delivered with two minutes left in the third quarter. Lutz missed a contested layup, but instead of giving up on the play, she ripped the ball from a Wildcats player’s hands and scored a layup.

“That was what maybe set the tone for our team and our bench that you know what, ‘We’re not losing this or at least we’re going to go down fighting,’” Williams said. “That play set the tone for the rest of the half.”

Cairnduff added another momentum boost when she scored a layup with four seconds left in the quarter while drawing a foul and sinking the ensuing free throw.

The Lakers were down only three points heading into the fourth quarter. The defense forced a few turnovers and eventually the Lakers grabbed their first lead of the game with two minutes left.

“It was incredible to see that grit,” Langs said. “That helps us going into tournament time because there might be a time you’re down 10 and you have to fight back.”

The Lakers went on to win the game on Langs’ jump shot in the final seconds of the game. It marked the first time GVSU won a game when scoring 50 points or fewer since a matchup with SVSU in January of 2012.

GVSU has one more game left on the regular season schedule before the GLIAC Tournament. The Lakers will play Ferris State Thursday, Feb. 23 at 6 p.m. in Big Rapids.