Muskies Capture LMC Championship With 69-56 Victory Over Concordia Wisconsin
Athletics - posted on 2/25/2006
The Lakeland College women's basketball team used a great shooting night and will return to the NCAA Division III Tournament thanks to a 69-56 win over Concordia, Wis., in the Lake Michigan Conference Tournament championship game.
The Muskies (21-7) will be making the fifth NCAA Tournament appearance in program history, a record among LMC-member schools. It is the third LMC Tournament title for Lakeland in six seasons.
The field for the tournament will be announced Sunday night, and the pairings announced Monday morning. Lakeland will most likely play its opening round game Wednesday night.
"My assistant coach Ben Oestreich said before the season that if we win the conference championship, this will be the most rewarding championship, and he was right hands down," said Lakeland head coach April Arvan. "That's not to take anything away from the rest of them, because they are all very special. But this team was an overachieving team that just got the job done."
Lakeland, which also won the regular season LMC title, improved to 6-6 in LMC Tournament Championship games since 1992. The No. 1 seed has now won 13 of the past 15 LMC tournaments.
"I can not express how proud I am of these girls and how we knew that we had to overachieve in order to get to this point this season," said Arvan. "We don't think we are the most talented team player for player. But we kept talking all season that if we can just stick together and play the way we know we can we'd be okay. We believed in each other."
"This feels great because I'm a fifth-year season and being able to come back and play one more year," said senior Kristi Thill. "It is nights like this that make it all worthwhile. It feels really great."
"This is huge," said senior Beth Porter. "This is our goal the whole season, and to have this happen my senior season is the best that could happen."
The Muskies, who led 37-21 at the half, hit their first two baskets of the second half to push their lead to 20 with 19:06 left to play. Concordia (19-9) battled back and cut it to 10, 62-52, with just under two minutes remaining, but that is as close as they would get.
"We knew that tonight's game was going to be tough to play in," said Thill. "They brought a lot of fans, we had a lot of fans. We just focused on our game and played Lakeland basketball."
The Muskies were led by Thill who scored 19 points, including three 3-point baskets.
"Kristi Thill is Kristi Thill," said Arvan. "In my opinion she is the best player in the league and she is the heart of our team."
Porter, who was playing injured, played 33 minutes and grabbed a team-high 12 rebounds, while adding 10 points.
"You don't even thing about it (the injury)," said Porter. "This could have been my last game, and there was no way I wasn't going to not play in it. Once you get on the floor you don't even think about the injury."
Sophomore guard Brenda Paulson added 10 points.
Concordia had three players score in double figures with junior Kristen Ruppe and freshman Krista Mayyou scoring 16, while freshman Megan Sopkowicz scored 10.
"Concordia is a great team and is coached by a great coaching staff," said Arvan. "Hats off to them for what they have done this season."
The Muskies now turn their focus to the NCAA Tournament - a familiar refrain for this program.
"We have been working for this our whole season," said Porter. "Every team has ups and downs, but we just came out and put everything together tonight."
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