GVSU flips script in upset win at Wayne State
Daina Grazulis. GVL / Robert Mathews
INT. Matthaei Center, Detroit, Mich. – Saturday Feb. 22, approximately 3 p.m.
FADE IN/FADE LIGHTS
Senior guard Dani Crandall receives an inbound pass from the sideline off a timeout with 14.7 seconds left in the game, works a clear out off a high-ball screen, crosses over her defender from right to left, careens in toward the rim from the left through contact and finishes her first layup of the game off the glass with 6.8 seconds remaining on the clock, despite being fouled.
Crandall sets up on the free-throw line with the game tied, dribbles out any anxiety she might be feeling into the court, takes a deep, settling breath and sinks the back half of an old-fashioned three-point play to give the Grand Valley State University women’s basketball team a 65-64 edge over No. 21 Wayne State University for its first lead of the game.
“I was thinking at worst, draw contact and get a foul so we’d have a chance even if I didn’t make the layup, but I don’t know. My mind was kind of blanking,” Crandall said. “I just had a ‘get it done’ mentality, told myself to do something and then drove it.”
CUT TO: Feb. 1 – Fieldhouse Arena, Allendale, Mich. :: FLASHBACK
Crandall drives the lane, is fouled at the rim and knocks down a pair of free throws to tie the game with 15 seconds to play in the fourth quarter.
The GVSU bench erupts as a final team timeout is called.
MATCH CUT BACK TO: Feb. 22
CLOSE UP: Crandall – as she makes her way into the GVSU huddle, the camera pans in pursuit and poetically frames the grease-board discussion. Head coach Janel Burgess enters frame stage left and, with Crandall, provides inspiration against a ticking clock.
“Heading into the game, we knew Wayne State was rated first in the conference, a good team – not a great team – and that they stole one from us on our home floor,” Crandall said. “We came out hoping to have a better start than what we did – it’s the same story we’ve had all season of having to dig our way out of holes – but we put our heads down, started to chip away and we didn’t give up.
“That’s a reflection of our team and a season as a whole. We’re not giving up. Period. Not in a game, not on this season, not on making the playoff cut when we’re on the cusp.”
WSU takes possession with 6.7 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s rematch. The stage is set for the Warriors to once again steal a victory on a last-second shot.
RETURN TO FLASHBACK – fade from the Feb. 22 huddle back to the sideline on Feb. 1. Both teams retake the court.
WSU inbounds, dramatically rotates the ball to junior center Shareta Brown — a likely All-American and the GLIAC’s leading scorer at a clip of 21 points per game — who lets it fly, igniting a slow-motion sequence, and sinks the shot with eight seconds left in the game.
Silence permeates the arena, and one last glancing shot of the scoreboard reveals a 78-76 final score, in favor of the Warriors.
SMASH CUT BACK to Feb. 22
The Lakers implement a full-court-pressure look and junior point guard Meryl Cripe applies her savvy by committing a foul. Two seconds run off the clock, and Burgess calls one final timeout, 4.7 seconds away from a win needed to keep GVSU’s playoff aspirations afloat.
Brown is double-teamed in the front court, GVSU takes a delay of game penalty to further assess the Warriors’ strategy, and WSU takes its final timeout with three seconds to go as the chess game mounts and the tension builds.
“Those are fun games to coach, especially when your players are so engaged,” Burgess said. “Those last 6.7 seconds, our kids remembered that Wayne State had scored on us at home with eight seconds to go and knew that the game wasn’t over.”
On the final inbound of the game, Brown is again denied the ball. It’s Crandall once again who thrusts into center stage to save the day. She steals the cross-court pass, falls on the ball, and Jerry Goldsmith’s ‘Best Shot’ echoes through the arena.
The Lakers trailed 12 points at half and led for only 6.7 seconds Saturday, but it was the right 6.7 seconds to secure the 65-64 upset victory.
“It was the best 6.7 seconds of the weekend, that’s for sure,” Burgess said. “It was a rewarding win for these young kids and the way we won says something about our resiliency and ability to sustain and fight through everything. We never gave up, never panicked, we worried about ourselves and what we do, got some huge stops, and we showed what kind of team we can be.”
De’ja’ Vu is a French term for ‘already seen,’ usually reserved for shrink offices and tainted ever so slightly by Denzel Washington’s 2006 fall release, but it might also have been an apt screenplay title for Saturday’s dramatic matchup that, if produced, would look more than a little like “Hoosiers” in its climatic conclusion.
Crandall, who scored a then-career-high 25 points to go with 10 rebounds back in the GVSU loss on Feb.1, led the Lakers with 16 points — 12 in the second half — on 5-of-11 shooting from the field, 1-of-1 from three-point and 5-of-7 from the free-throw line Saturday. She would have, of course, played a Jimmy Chitwood role, and her game-winning three-point play would have been no less essential to the plot than Chitwood’s jumper from the elbow off the picket-fence screen.
Crandall’s performance was amplified even further by the fact that she was withheld with injury for the first time this season on her senior day Thursday, but she returned to the court to realize what her team can do at it’s highest potential.
“There are a lot of good teams in this conference and we’re a good team ourselves, but nobody’s great and everybody’s beatable,” she said. “After this game, with our attitude to put our heads down and go to work, we realized we can do anything we put our minds to. We beat the No. 1 team on their home court, and when we have our minds all on the same page, we can beat anybody on any given night.”
After falling to Saginaw Valley State University 65-47 on Thursday, the team entered the game tied with Northwood University (11-10) for seventh in the GLIAC standings. It was a must-win situation for the Lakers, and they knew it.
And as the game rolled under two minutes to play, all the requisite pieces and players were in place to set the stage for the Hollywood-esque conclusion GVSU required. The Lakers, as a team, knew their parts well, had studied the script acted out on Feb. 1, and came prepared to rewrite it.
“It was another great team win,” she said. “We had pretty spread out scoring, no one really stood out individually and it was fun. To come from behind and close with a dramatic ending just added to it.”
GVSU trailed by as many as 15 in the game and by nine at the 4:20 mark in the second half, but it finished on a 10-0 run against the No. 1 team in the GLIAC.
Crandall scored seven of the Lakers’ final 10 points, including the three-point play that gave them their first and only lead of the contest, but it was a coordinated and sequenced effort that produced the final outcome.
As a team, the Lakers shot 51.9 percent from the field in the second half, drained 6-of-11 triples and converted 18 forced turnovers into 20 points to pull off the improbable upset. Junior center Daina Grazulis not only scored six points in the game but also tallied four blocks and made her mark on defense while replacing sophomore center Jill Steinmetz, who is out for the season with an ACL tear incurred Thursday.
Grazulis’ fourth and final block came against Brown and trickled into a 3-pointer put in from the wing by freshman forward Piper Tucker, which made it a 64-62 game with 1:45 left.
“Daina came in and played some huge minutes,” Burgess said. “With Jill out, our five player who gives us 35 minutes a night, Daina stepped in against a tough opponent and had a made some really smart defensive plays that sometimes only coaches can see with Dani and Taylor Lutz and Cripe and Piper (Tucker) – all of our kids that were on the court down the stretch did some special things.”
On the ensuing possession, Cripe intercepted the ball and got to the line with a chance to tie. She missed, as did Crandall on a pick-and-roll layup attempt with Grazulis, but even listeners tuned into the radio broadcast across the state might have felt the momentum shift as they played through the action in their mind’s eye.
“Our post players did an awesome job of stopping Shareta, Daina’s blocks were huge, Kat LaPrairie did a great job guarding her, too, and I think our rotation and help proved to be effective,” Cripe said. “We weren’t going to let this one slip.”
When Tucker stole the ball 35-feet out, forcing a shot-clock violation and setting up an inbound opportunity with just under 15 seconds to play, there was no doubt who the spotlight would turn on — and it came as no surprise when Crandall delivered.
Contrary to the script acted out on Feb. 1, it was the Lakers’ turn to collect a signature win on the season and enjoy a curtain call away from home.
“That Thursday game presented a lot of difficulties for us and we obviously didn’t come out on top, but I’m very proud of how we bounced back and responded on Saturday,” Burgess said. “All 15 kids that rode the bus down to Detroit had a huge impact on this victory with their energy, relentless ability to fight through adversity, and I’m proud of the collective effort.”
The Lakers will play their final regular season game at Ferris State University (9-13, 9-11 GLIAC) Thursday at 6 p.m. and will need a victory to have a chance to qualify for the GLIAC Tournament; just eight teams advance, and the Lakers currently remain tied with SVSU for seventh.
“This team knows what’s on the line, so we’ll just talk and worry about what we need to do Thursday – play good defense, take good shots – against our biggest rival,” Burgess said. “When we’re playing the Bulldogs, we don’t need to bring any extra motivation to the table, and if you’re playing Ferris, you better bring your emotion, your best effort and your A-game.”