So close: GVSU women’s basketball falls just shy of ending historic Ashland win streak in overtime

GVL / Dylan McIntyre. Thursday, February 15, 2018. Grand Valley Womens Basketball against Ashland.

GVL / Dylan McIntyre. Thursday, February 15, 2018. Grand Valley Womens Basketball against Ashland.

Brady McAtamney

Few sporting events can carry a current of electricity and excitement through a crowd for a full 40 minutes—plus overtime—the way the Grand Valley State women’s basketball game against the Ashland Eagles did on Thursday, Feb. 15.

Despite eventually falling 96-90 in OT, the Lakers gave the top-ranked Eagles their all in what was without a question one of the hardest-fought games Ashland has had this season and during their now 63-game winning streak, and they did it in front of a packed Fieldhouse Arena that was as rowdy as it has been all season.

“They always play hard,” said head coach Mike Williams. “They bring it every day in practice. They bring it every day. They do it for each other. They play hard. They’re bought in, doing all the things right. 

“You just, as a coach, have to have them better prepared. I did not have them prepared enough. They were not prepared on the defensive end to guard Ashland, and that’s the end of the story.”

The night started with the Eagles winning the first quarter by a mere point before GVSU stole the second quarter and took a 41-39 lead into halftime.

Things hit a high point for the Lakers in the third quarter when they captured a 67-55 lead with 1:40 left, but it went downhill from there.

Midway through the fourth quarter, starting senior forward Taylor Parmley went down with what appeared to be a knee injury and was helped off the court. She did not return to the game and was later seen on the bench with crutches.

During the last few minutes of the fourth quarter, the game swayed both teams’ way several times before guard Natalie Koenig made one of two free throws to send the game into overtime tied at 84. There, Ashland was finally able to seal the victory.

“We just didn’t get stops,” Koenig said. “That’s what we needed to do, and we just didn’t do it, and they capitalized on every mistake we made, and they’re a good team. They’re going to make shots at the end of the shot clock, so that’s what it came down to—not getting stops at the end of the shot clock on defensive.”

Koenig played 41 minutes on Thursday, eight more than the next highest Laker. During her time on the court, the guard scored a team-high 26 points, along with grabbing five rebounds, nabbing one steal and blocking one shot.

Reigning GLIAC player of the week, center Cassidy Boensch, saw 33 minutes, the second most for the Lakers. She managed 23 points on 10-13 shooting while grabbing seven rebounds, four of which were offensive.

Additionally, center Korynn Hincka scored 14 points, grabbed eight rebounds and dished out four assists, and forward Maddie Dailey added eight points and rebounds each.

“I’m so proud of our team,” Boensch said. “We stuck together, and obviously we had a really scary thing happen with one of our starters there—(Parmley) going down—and that shakes you. But I think we really stayed together, and that was a really good part of it and definitely gave them a run for their money. So, that’s definitely something to be proud of.”

Along with a feeling of ill-preparedness on his part, Williams cited GVSU’s defensive mishaps as one of the determining factors of the game.

“We had too many breakdowns on the defensive end with the fouls and back cuts and open shooters and just not knowing who to guard in transition,” Williams said. “We gave them way too much easy stuff on the defensive end, and you can’t do that against a good team. Even if your offense is really good, you can’t do that.”

At the end of the day, the Lakers have plenty to be proud of: They took Ashland, a team whose average margin of victory is 38.6 points during an undefeated season, into overtime while out-rebounding them by 22 and having led for 57 percent of the game.

If this season is at all like the last, GVSU will see Ashland again in the GLIAC and possibly even the NCAA Tournament.