End of the road: Lakers’ season ends with Sweet 16 loss to Drury

Dan Pacheco/GVL

Dan Pacheco/GVL

Brady McAtamney

The No. 3 seeded Grand Valley State Lakers’ season has come to an end after falling to the undefeated No. 1 seed Drury Panthers 51-44 on Monday, March 18 in the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16. 

“I haven’t seen everybody in the country, but (Drury’s) got to be pretty dang good,” said GVSU head coach Mike Williams. “They’ve got the total package. They’ve got size, they’ve got athletes who can shoot the basketball, they can get to the rim, they rebound and they guard you. They really, really guard you. They’re just relentless and I thought our kids, for the most part, responded to it.”

After leading 13-12 after the first quarter and 25-22 at halftime – the first deficit the Panthers had seen after the first 20 minutes all season – the Lakers allowed 21 points in the third quarter while scoring only 11, leaving them trailing for the rest of the game. 

The two key numbers to explain the Lakers’ shortcomings are 25 and 17, as the Lakers committed 25 turnovers – almost twice the 13.1 per game they allowed on the season – and let Drury corral 17 offensive rebounds. As a result, the Panthers scored 21 points off turnovers and 13 second chance points. 

“You’ve got to keep them from scoring off turnovers,” Williams said. “We didn’t turn it over a lot in the full court (press), we were at least able to get our defense set. I thought we defended pretty well, made them do things they didn’t want to do, took away the plays we needed to take away, so I thought that the offensive rebounds… We let them get too many second chance opportunities and I think it just wore us down. Defending for 60 seconds instead of 22, it just wore us down a bit.”

Guard Jenn DeBoer led the game with 16 points on 50 percent shooting, going 3-4 from three-point range. Center Cassidy Boensch contributed nine points with 14 rebounds and four blocks while forward Maddie Dailey scored nine with six rebounds. 

The Lakers finish the season 29-4 with a GLIAC regular season championship title. Their win percentage of .879 is the programs best since 2005-06.

Senior guard Natalie Koenig will depart after starting all 33 games this season, averaging 7.7 points and 2.9 assists per game while shooting 34.5 percent from three, the second best mark on the team in 2018-19. Joining her will be senior guard Tara Lierman, who appeared in 10 games after joining the squad following her season with the GVSU soccer team. 

“It was a lot more successful than I thought it would be,” Williams said. “I’m always a little on the conservative side, winning the GLIAC, I thought, was really impressive. Some of the big wins we got; getting it in on Marquette in an exhibition game; Ashland at Ashland, a place nobody’s won there in 60 games; to win the GLIAC championship outright, that’s pretty cool. 

“I thought that the two regional tournament wins, I thought we beat two pretty good teams beating Truman and then we upset Truman in the second round. I think it was good.”