Women's hoops upsets No. 12 Lewis

By Pete Barrows | 12/1/13 6:53pm

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GVL / Archive
Dani Crandell


In a Saturday non-regional game, the Grand Valley State University women’s basketball team and No. 12 Lewis University passed the controlling stake of the contest back-and-forth as if it was a gravy boat at Thanksgiving dinner.

In a game that featured 10 ties and 11 lead changes, GVSU demonstrated the intestinal fortitude to come back for seconds and the ability to finish a game as if it were a full plate to be cleaned before leaving the table. And it walked away, grateful, with a 67-59 upset victory.

“We kept our composure at some really crucial times in the game and kept excited throughout, particularly during the last five minutes,” GVSU head coach Janel Burgess said. “We weren’t perfect in those final five minutes by any stretch of the imagination, but we found ways to finish possessions, if it was getting a defensive rebound or hitting big free throws, throughout the game and down the stretch.”

Lewis jumped out to an early 10-6 lead, although it was a pair of three-pointers by sophomore center Jill Steinmetz and freshman forward Piper Tucker over a one-minute span that stymied the Lewis attack and ignited the game’s first run—a 15-4 scoring advantage in GVSU’s favor. Junior forward Kat LaPrairie capped the run with a three of her own to give the Lakers a 24-16 lead with 7:52 left in the first half.

Lewis battled back to knot the score at 24-24 two minutes later, but GVSU answered the call and finished the half with three consecutive field goals to take a 35-33 lead into the locker room.

“In a close game like that, it’s a continual fight and you can’t let up,” junior point guard Meryl Cripe said. “You have to make sure you have solid possessions, and you have to finish possessions. You have to be smart with just about everything you do. It’s a challenge every possession, but it also makes the game fun.

“When you beat a great team like Lewis, you can see where you fit with some of these good teams, and it’s something you can be excited about, but then again, with the schedule we have, we have to take it a game—a possession—at a time.”

A 35-33 Laker lead evaporated in the first 30 seconds of the second half as Lewis held court for the next eight minutes of action. Neither squad exceeded more than a three-point advantage for the next 10 minutes of play.

“We know what we have to offer is good enough to win a game, and our team leadership is very strong, which helps us stay relaxed and get the job done,” Tucker said. “We really focused this week on not only finishing our baskets, but finishing on the defensive end, and every stop we made in turn gave us confidence on the offensive end.”

Despite trailing by as many as six points with 14:39 to play in the second half, GVSU rallied to regain a 49-48 lead with 11:55 to go. Tucker netted the go-ahead layup and helped GVSU put the finishing touches on the tightly-contested match.

Tucker contributed 14 points on 4-of-9 shooting and six boards, and she was 4-for-4 from the stripe on a series of one-and-ones in the fourth quarter, including the free throw that put GVSU up for good with less than three minutes to play in the game.

The Lakers shot 17-of-22 from the line in the game and knocked down 11 freebies in the final 3:52 to secure their second victory of the season.

“Piper’s just an extremely fundamental kid,” Burgess said. “She was coached very well in high school, but she’s also really grown a lot in her first three months on campus. She’s one of those kids that (can) create extra possessions for us, deflections or rebounds, and really has a knack for finishing possessions. Those are huge things for a freshman to do.”

Senior guard Dani Crandall led the Lakers and packed the box score with 16 points, eight rebounds, three assists and two steals.

“In a game like this, you have to look at what your seniors are doing, and we’re fortunate to have a great one,” Burgess said. “Her play was another huge reason why we were able to succeed down the stretch.”

GVSU out-rebounded Lewis 48 to 43, thanks in part to Steinmetz who nabbed a career-high 10 boards to accompany eight points on 3-of-6 shooting, three assists and a blocked shot.

“Today was the first time this season that we’ve out-rebounded an opponent. We made a concerted effort all week in practice to hit the boards hard,” Burgess said. “We also worked a lot of situations in practice where we had to get a stop and a score on back-to-back possessions and succession was key for us down the stretch.”

Mariyah Henley of Lewis entered the game averaging 21.5 points per game this season, but was contained to 10 points by GVSU. The swarming Laker defense held Lewis to just 27.8 percent shooting in the second half and to 34.8 percent for the entire game.

“I think we did a great job of really sticking with the game plan,” Burgess said. “I have to give our post players credit for playing physical in the low post. Our weak side help was tremendous. That low post defense was another huge improvement we worked on making throughout the week, and we responded and succeeded in that improvement on game day.”

GVSU (2-1) will host No. 23 Ashland on Thursday at 6 p.m. at Grand Rapids Community College’s Hunsburger Arena to begin GLIAC play before hosting Lake Erie on Saturday at 12 p.m. in Allendale.

“In our final games before Christmas break, we really need to stay focused on us,” Burgess said. “Ashland is a defending national champion and is ranked in the top 25 right now. They’re a different looking team than they have ever been, but I know for us to be successful we’re going to really have to absorb our game plan and execute it.

“As coaches, we’ll give our young ladies the tools to be successful, and our kids need to put them in play.”

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