Women clinch first playoff berth since 2003-04
February 26, 2007 —
Needing a win to make the postseason, SVSU dominated from the tip and beat rival Northwood 70-62 Saturday night.
The Lady Cards led the entire way, leading by as many as 18 in the second half, and avoided foul trouble with four of their starters to make the GLIAC tournament for the first time since the 2003-04 season. SVSU will travel to Gannon, the conference's top seed at 15-2 in conference play and 21-5 overall, on Tuesday for a 7 p.m. game.
The Timberwolves made a late surge in an effort to spoil their rival's season, going on a 14-2 run to bring SVSU's lead down to 66-60. With just under two minutes left, though, the Lady Cards held on for the win.
"We thought the game was over and we stopped playing on defense and offense," said third-year coach Vonnie Killmer, who will be coaching in the conference tournament for the first time.
A loss would have been crushing for seniors Val Smith and Bernettra Grayer.
"We knew we had to stick it out," Smith said. "I was worried. It was getting a little scary out there."
For her part, Smith scored 16 points, had four boards, and blocked three shots.
Smith was one of four starters with at least four fouls. Junior Jenna Schroeder picked up her third foul with 2:25 left in the first half and almost was whistled for her fourth on the Timberwolves' subsequent possession. Sophomore Tricia Everett was assessed the foul instead, giving her three for the half, too.
Everett fouled out with a little over five minutes left, while Schroeder finished with four fouls, as did junior Latille Ross. Despite the foul trouble, SVSU managed to avoid putting Northwood in the bonus until late in the second half.
The Lady Cards made it clear they were on a mission from the start, dominating the first half. They went up by as many as seven at 32-25 with four minutes to go, but the Timberwolves fought back with a 6-0 run to get within one. SVSU scored the last four points of the half to take a 36-31 lead at halftime.
The second half was no different for the Lady Cards, who went on a 20-7 run to begin the half to take a 58-40 lead with 6:53 left.
"The halftime attitude was, 'Let's go win this,'" Killmer said of her team.
The win, which pushed SVSU's record to 8-10 in the conference, a half-game better than Ashland, was the Lady Cards' second in six home games.
"Home wins have been few and far between," Killmer said.
Schroeder led all Cardinals scorers with 18 points, 15 of which came in the first half. Along with Smith, she was one of four SVSU players in double figures. Junior Brittany Burns scored 13, while Ross added 10 points and eight rebounds.
Former SVSU guard Lisa Collison led the Timberwolves with 18 points, including nine as Northwood made its comeback in the second half. Senior Karyn Maiorana added 13 points and eight assists in her last game in a Northwood jersey.
SVSU's 8-10 GLIAC record is the same as it was during the team's last playoff run. Five of the eight wins came on the road, where the Lady Cards had a 7-6 record overall and 5-4 in the conference. Saturday's home win was their third in conference play and fourth overall.
"We're not light years ahead compared to the last playoff team," Killmer said. "They were the eighth seed then and we're the eighth seed now, so we were the last team in. But we're in."
Killmer was still happy about her team's progress, though.
"Eight of our eleven wins came in the conference," she said. "We had a tough schedule this year, and that was on purpose. We could have played some easier teams and had more than eleven wins."
Gannon the better matchup
Despite the fact that Gannon has a better record than Grand Valley State, the top team in the North Division, Killmer feels the Golden Knights are a better matchup for her team.
Because the Lady Cards made it to the postseason as the second "Wild Card" team, they will play the team with the best record in the conference as opposed to the team with the best record in their division, which would have been GVSU.
"I like the matchup against Gannon," Killmer said. "They're still awesome, but we just match up better against them than we do Grand Valley."
SVSU lost to Gannon 65-55 at home Jan. 10, and had a seven-point lead with six minutes to go in the first half.
"We played them well, and we blew a lead," Killmer said. "We like blowing leads, I guess."
The 65 points by the Golden Knights were 11 fewer than they averaged in conference play. As a team, SVSU is holding opponents to 63 points a game.
"We have held most teams we have played," Killmer said. "We have played fairly good defense all season, but we go through stretches on offense that we can't afford."