No. 17 Tech outlasts No. 24 GVSU to take 1st in GLIAC North

Michigan Tech celebrates after defeating Grand Valley State 68-61 Thursday at the Wood Gym. (David Archambeau/Daily Mining Gazette)

HOUGHTON — It was always going to be close. That’s how the matchups go when the Michigan Tech and Grand Valley State women meet up. Two accomplished programs, defensively-minded, who are accustomed to playing in high-stakes contests. 

“You just know it will be a battle for the full 40 minutes,” Tech senior Brenna Heise said. “It’s going to be a grind, and you’re going to be tired at the end, but it’s no excuse.” 

But enduring that type of fatigue can end up being a badge of pride, a type of satisfaction that’s far greater than any blow-out win. That’s what the Tech players and coach Kim Cameron felt after the team’s 68-61 GLIAC win over No. 24 GVSU Thursday at the Wood Gym. The victory gives No. 17 Tech sole possession of first place in the GLIAC North. 

“I’m really proud of them because it’s hard. It was a hard game, and both teams battled,” Cameron said. “I’m really proud of us for being tough enough to pull it out.”

For a stretch, apprehension stifled Tech (17-3, 11-2) as GVSU went on a 14-0 run in the third quarter to take a 52-41 lead. The Lakers took advantage of Tech’s foul trouble and repeatedly fed the ball to the post where they scored 14 of their 34 points in the paint during that span. Tech starting forward Elizabeth Kelliher picked up three fouls by the second quarter and could not risk taking a fourth, so GVSU (17-4, 10-3) attacked her and the rest of Tech’s interior defense. 

“It’s a tough position to put someone in,” Cameron said of playing defense with three early fouls. “Then you don’t want to foul at all and unfortunately, it makes you play pretty far back. That was hurting us, but it’s no fault of hers. There was so much game left that she wanted to a part of.”

How a team responds to adversity is always an indicator of its character. And that’s when Tech displayed its mental fortitude, answering GVSU’s 14-0 run with a 14-0 run of its own, taking a 55-52 lead on a layup from freshman Cassidy Trotter with 7:46 left in the fourth quarter. 

Trotter and senior Sarah LewAllen were subbed in at the start of the fourth for defensive purposes. The move paid off as GVSU scored just four points in the paint in the final 10 minutes and made just 3 of 11 shot attempts.

“It may not show up on the stats, but the game doesn’t go the way it did if it wasn’t for those two defensively,” Cameron said. “Brenna Heise also came up with some huge stops. I realize the offensive part is usually the part that sticks out with us, but when they took that lead, we were able to bear down and get big stops.”

In the previous five matchups between the two schools, the outcome was decided by an average of four points, making any separation down the stretch critical. Heise made one of the critical momentum-swinging shots when she swished a 3 from the left wing for a 60-54 advantage with 4:47 left in the game. It was from a similar spot where she missed on the same possession before Kelliher secured the offensive rebound for the second-chance opportunity. 

Heise finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds. Senior Hannah Stoll added 15 points.

“I’m a confident shooter,” Heise said. “I don’t really care if I miss one, I always believe the next one is in. That was my mentality the whole time.”

GVSU sophomore Jenn DeBoer made a 3 to cut Tech’s lead to 64-61 with 29 seconds left, but the Huskies converted all four free throws down the stretch to secure the win. 

Tech finished 25 of 57 from the field (44 percent) and made 10 of 28 3s (36 percent) against the GLIAC’s top defense (55 points allowed per game). 

Tech opened the game on a 16-4 run as it made 4 of 5 3s. But from there, Tech made just 4 of its next 20 attempts from 3-point range. During a span in the second quarter when GVSU went to a 2-3 zone, the Huskies shot 1 of 9 overall and just 1 of 7 from 3. 

“When we attacked the basket, we were in an offensive flow,” Cameron said. “We created openings inside and created openings outside and got a couple offensive rebounds. We just have to keep moving the ball and can’t get stagnant. We can’t just settle for one pass stuff.”

GVSU shot 23 of 58 (40 percent). Senior Taylor Parmley led the way with 22 points.

Tech will host Purdue Northwest Saturday at 1 p.m. Tech won the first matchup between the two, 86-40, on Dec. 9. 

– – – 

GVSU 15 19 18 9 — 61

Tech 21 12 13 22 — 68

GVSU — Parmley 22, Dailey 5, Hincka 6, DeBoer 14, Koenig 5, Boensch 8, Hedemark 1. F: 15; Fouled out: None; Free throws: 11-16; 3-point field goals: DeBoer 2, Koenig. 

Tech — Stoll 15, Kelliher 8, Guy 5, Winter 14, Heise 16, Trotter 6, Hobson 2, McGirk 2. F: 15; Fouled out: Stoll; Free throws: 8-11; 3-point field goals: Winter 4, Stoll 3, Heise 2, Guy.