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The Lakeland College women's basketball team plays host to the No. 5 seed, rival Concordia University Wisconsin, in the quarterfinals of the Northern Athletics Conference Tournament on Wednesday, Feb. 22, at 7 p.m.
The Muskies (18-7, 13-5 NAC) enter the tournament having won nine of their last 10, but lost their most recent contest, a 60-53 setback in the NAC Challenge game against the Milwaukee School of Engineering. The Muskies will look to regroup and make a run at the tournament championship and the NAC's automatic berth into the NCAA Division III national tournament.
This season, Lakeland is 2-0 against their NAC North rivals from Mequon, Wis., with the two contests being decided by a combined six points. Both teams feel they have a legitimate chance to win the tournament, having tied for second in the NAC North behind No. 1 seed Wisconsin Lutheran College.
In the first meeting, back on Dec. 12, Lakeland defeated CUW, 53-51, in Mequon. The game was a back-and-forth battle as the teams tied 10 times and the lead changed hands seven times. Lakeland used 50 percent (12-for-24) shooting in the second half to secure the victory. The defense was also solid, holding the Falcons to 30 percent shooting for the game. The Muskies were able to win inside, outscoring the Falcons 30-14 in the paint and winning the rebounding battle, 37-35.
Sophomore Jessica Genke (Kiel, Wis.) had a team-high 14 points and seven rebounds, while fellow post players senior Alyssa Schuttenhelm (Waterford, Wis.) and sophomore Leah Eisner (Stevens Point, Wis.) scored 12 and 10 points, respectively.
In the second meeting on Feb. 7, Lakeland won 54-50. The Muskies dominated in the first half and never trailed. Lakeland held CUW to a season-low 19 first-half points and led by as many as 19 points. The Falcons made a run in the second half, but the 16-point halftime deficit was too large to overcome. The Muskies won the game from the 3-point line, where they were 5-for-11, and the free throw line, where Lakeland went 13-for-15. The Falcons were 2-for-16 from behind the arc and were 6-for-7 from the charity stripe.
Lakeland used a balanced attack as no player scored in double figures. Genke led the way with eight points and 12 rebounds, while Eisner and junior Dana Henrichs (Fall Creek, Wis.) each added eight points.
In the two contests, Lakeland shot 37.5 percent from the field, 36 percent from the 3-point line and 80 percent from the free throw line. The Muskies also hold a +1.5 rebounding margin and have outscored the Falcons in the paint, 52-36. Lakeland's bench has been the key, contributing 52 points, compared to just 17 from the Falcons reserves.
The focus on Wednesday will be ball security and post play. The team that can excel in both areas will have the upper hand.
The winner of Wednesday's contest will face the winner of the quarterfinal between top-seed Wisconsin Lutheran College and No. 8 Benedictine University. In the other bracket, No. 3 Milwaukee School of Engineering hosts No. 6 Concordia University Chicago, and No. 2 Dominican University hosts No. 7 Marian University. The semifinals will be hosted by the higher seed at 7 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 24, with the championship game hosted by the highest remaining seed on Saturday, Feb. 25, at 7 p.m.
For up-to-date coverage and results of the tournament visit the NAC website here.
See how Lakeland head coach Lindsey Vande Hoef is preparing her team here.