HOUGHTON - Michigan Tech women's basketball sophomore Dani Blake said anger was the primary emotion she was feeling after a crushing loss to Wayne State last Thursday.
The Huskies did not match the Warriors' intensity for the entire first half and paid for it when a second-half three-point barrage fell short.
That performance was an anomaly, not representative of this team, Blake stated over and over again.
Michigan Tech’s Paige Albi puts up a shot during the second half of Saturday’s home win over Saginaw Valley State at the SDC?Gym. (DMG photo by David Archambeau)
Saturday, Blake and the Huskies backed that assertion up.
Tech played with renewed focus and aggression from the opening tip against visiting Saginaw Valley, taking a lead on the first possession of the game and making it permanent over the final 32 minutes.
MacKenzie Perttu led Tech with 20 points (5-of-11 shooting), while Blake notched a double-double (19 points, 11 rebounds) and Paige Albi chipped in 15 points (7-of-14 shooting) in an emotional 73-63 Senior Day victory.
"We needed this one," Blake said.
"We needed to put together two halves of basketball," Tech coach Kim Cameron said. "I thought we did that. Our start was so important today and we had a good start."
Blake, who can run hot and cold on offense, asserted herself immediately Saturday, scoring eight straight points for Tech over a three-minute span in the first half with 15 points, seven rebounds and three steals in the first half.
The sophomore also hit a clutch end-of-the-shot-clock fadeaway to give the Huskies a six-point lead with less than two minutes to play in the second half.
"I was playing for the seniors this game," Blake said. "I wanted them to go out winners the last regular season game on our home floor."
That sentiment was apparent through the entire team, as the Huskies blitzed Saginaw Valley's pick-and-roll offense to force 17 turnovers and score 17 points off those changes in possession.
Tech managed eight blocked shots while Blake and Perttu combined for 10 steals that helped lead to 11 points on the fast break.
The Huskies always seem to be at their best on offense when they are wreaking havoc on defense.
"We feed off of each other," Albi said.
"I honestly think we get more excited about blocks and steals then we do about points," Blake said.
After a strong first 35 minutes, the Huskies were able to close the game with their typical penchant for playmaking.
Emily Harrison knocked down a pair of short jumpers to keep Tech's lead at four points and some aggressive offense from Perttu, Blake and Albi sealed it from there.
Perttu sank all four of her free throws in the final 90 seconds and Albi came up with a driving layup and defensive rebound through traffic to push the lead to 10.
"There are a bunch of girls on this team who can step up," Albi said. "We just showed that again tonight."
While it was the last regular season game for seniors Albi, Kate Glodowski, Heather Kessler, Taylor Stippel and Kelcey Traynoff, the Huskies are in prime position for another game at the SDC in the first round of the GLIAC Tournament.
Two wins in their last four regular season contests would seal a quarterfinal home game, while a loss from Wayne State at Northern Michigan Saturday keeps alive hope that Tech could win the conference outright.
"We are definitely going to fight to make sure this isn't their last game here," Blake said.
The Senior Day ceremony after the game drove that notion home as plaques and parents gave way to some tears and bear hugs.
"It didn't hit me until my roommate hugged me," Albi said. "A lot of emotions."
With Kylie Moxley injured, Cameron has flipped between Albi and Harrison the last two weeks taking the sophomore's spot in the starting lineup.
Saturday, Cameron gave the nod to both of them, putting Jillian Ritchie on the bench to start the game for the first time this season.
Ritchie has struggled offensively all year, shooting 32.7 percent from the floor and 27.6 percent from three.
When asked about the change, Cameron declined to comment.