Lakeland enters post-season play with NAC North/South Challenge win
Athletics - posted on 2/20/2010
LISLE, Ill. - Sophomore guard Becca Tilleman's 3-pointer with 1:12 remaining broke a 61-61 tie and proved to be the deciding bucket in the Lakeland women's basketball team's 66-61 victory at Benedictine in a Northern Athletics Conference Challenge Game on Saturday.
The Muskies (19-6 overall), who will be the No. 3 seed and host Alverno on Wednesday in the NAC Tournament quarterfinals, used fantastic ball movement on a key possession to find an open Tilleman (Green Bay, Wis.), who was spotted up on the left wing.
"We were able to pound the ball inside and that helped us get an open look on the perimeter," senior forward KC Blahnik said. "Becca hit a huge shot."
After stopping Benedictine (13-11) on the ensuing possession, sophomore guard Erin Cepa (Glenview, Ill.) rebounded a missed shot to give Lakeland the ball with a fresh shot clock. Blahnik (Gladstone, Mich.) knocked down one of two free throws and picked up a steal on the next play to seal the win.
In the first half, the Muskies dominated the paint on both ends of the floor, but Benedictine was able to knock down open perimeter jump shots to take a 28-25 advantage into the locker room. Lakeland shot just 3-of-12 (25 percent) from the free throw line in the period and 10-for-23 in the game.
The Muskies also overcame 11 made 3-pointers by the Eagles.
"We lacked focus on the defensive end and didn't stick to the game plan," Lakeland coach Teri Johnson said. "(Benedictine) kept capitalizing on what we were doing. It wasn't until the last five minutes of the game that we were able to get stops consistently."
The Muskies increased the tempo in the second half, using defensive stops to push the ball in transition, which created easy looks for freshman forward Leah Eisner (Stevens Point, Wis.), who finished with a career-high 20 points to go along with seven rebounds and five blocks.
Benedictine took its largest lead of the game, 45-37, with 12:29 left. Lakeland tied the game at 47-47 with just under 10 minutes remaining and took a 55-53 advantage, its first of the half, at the 6:52 mark.
"We talked about pressuring on defense and getting stops during halftime," Blahnik said. "We didn't let them get their defense set up, and Leah ran the floor really well. She was huge for us today."
Lakeland exploited the Eagles' interior defense, holding a 38-18 advantage for the game on points in the paint. The Muskies also finished with 37 points off the bench, led by Eisner and sophomore forward Alyssa Schuttenhelm (Waterford, Wis.), who tallied 10 points and five rebounds.
"Leah and 'Schutt' saved us off the bench," Johnson said. "We always talk about how we don't lose a lot when we sub … our bench was great, especially on offense. Leah and 'Schutt' both rebounded as well."
Blahnik added 18 points, seven rebounds and four assists.
The game against Alverno is set for 7 p.m. at Moose & Dona Woltzen Gymnasium. The Inferno (13-12) is the tournament's sixth seed and will be playing in the NAC Tournament for the first time ever. The Muskies were defeated 61-55 by Alverno in the first meeting between the two teams on Jan. 9 at Lakeland.
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