Flyers knock out Warriors, Brown

HOUGHTON – The Lewis Flyers found an answer for Wayne State’s Shareta Brown and gave themselves a shot at their first Elite Eight in school history by eliminating the Warriors 71-63 in the first of two NCAA Midwest Regional semifinals at the SDC Gym Saturday.

Lewis (30-2) double-teamed Brown, the Midwest Region Player of the Year, found a way to get her into foul trouble and took advantage of her teammates’ inability to compensate.

Even then, Lewis needed a 9-0 run midway through the second half to gain the upper hand.

“We wanted to see what their other players could do, so we tried to kind of double her and keep the ball out of her hands and force other players to make plays,” Lewis guard Jamie Johnson said.

The game was tied at 50 with 9:04 to play. Kristin Itschner made a jumper on the ensuing trip out of a Lewis timeout and as Itschner made a steal on the other end, Brown committed her fourth foul. Her exit, and Lewis entering the bonus two minutes previous on Brown’s third foul, played a role in the Flyers gaining the edge.

“We were lucky enough to get them in foul trouble early, get to the bonus situation and when you have a lead down the stretch you’ve got to step to the line and knock them down. We were able to do that and that’s where we accumulated a lot of those points in key situations in the second half that kind of kept that buffer as they were trying to make a run,” Lewis coach Lisa Carlsen said.

Back-to-back lay-ups by Nikki Nellen made it 59-50 Flyers with 6:43 to play. Brown returned immediately after and played effectively, but Wayne had only closed to within seven when Brown was called for her fifth foul while stepping into the center of the lane to help on Johnson’s drive with 2:38 to play.

Ondrea Hughes had seven of her 13 points in the last four minutes, but the Flyers closed the Warriors out.

Wayne State coach Carrie Lohr lamented that her guards couldn’t make shots early and force Lewis to devote less attention to Brown, who had 14 points and 16 rebounds anyway.

“We need them to knock down shots or if they don’t, they’re going to put Shareta in the cage down low,” she said.

Brown, a senior, had a double-double in all but four of the 23-6 Warriors’ games this season.

Shannon Wilson added 13 points off the bench for Wayne.

Lewis got 20 from Johnson and 15 from both Mariyah Brawner-Henley and Jess Reinhart. The Flyers will play Ashland tonight at 7 for the regional title.

“We love to play together and we don’t want that to end, so if we can do whatever it takes to keep that run going, that’s what we’re going to do,” Johnson said.