NMU Women’s Basketball team sweeps up GLIAC title

Ray Bressette

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The women’s basketball team took home the 2014 GLIAC Championship title following victories over Northwood, Michigan Tech and Malone. This was their first championship since 2000 and the eighth in team history.

The NMU women’s basketball team won the 2014 GLIAC Championship with a 53-49 victory over the Malone Pioneers on Sunday, March 9 at Matthaei Center in Detroit, earning an automatic bid to the NCAA Division II women’s basketball tournamenThe Wildcats defeated rival Michigan Tech 59-54 on Saturday, March 9 to advance to the championship game. Senior forward Annie Rubendunst led NMU in scoring with 19 points.

A layup from Rubendunst gave the ’Cats a 43-31 lead with 13 minutes remaining in the game. Michigan Tech took a one point lead with 1:14 left in the contest, before freshman guard Bre Gaspervich responded seconds later with a layup for the Wildcats that gave them the lead for the remainder of the game. Rubendunst was named to the GLIAC All-Tournament team.

Junior guard Lauren Gruber said her team has been playing their best basketball over their 10-game win streak.

“We’ve been carrying over momentum from game-to-game the last month, which has really helped us, moving forward,” Gruber said. “We’ve been able to find the motivation that we’ve needed to win late in the season, and it’s really been a team effort from every player on this team.”

Gruber earned the GLIAC tournament MVP award, leading the ’Cats with 19 points, 10 rebounds and three assists in the championship win over Malone. Gruber scored a triple for NMU as time expired in the first half, sending the Wildcats to the locker room with a 23-18 lead.

Mattson said he was proud of Gruber’s effort in the tournament.

“She really had a group pair of games,” Mattson said. “Malone was really taking (junior guard Alyssa)Colla out of the game, which allowed us to get Lauren with her high speed into the paint to make plays. She was able to come through and play the best throughout the tournament.”

The Wildcats went on a 9-0 run to start the second half, extending their lead to 32-18. Malone came within three points of the Wildcats with only eight seconds remaining in the game, before a free throw by junior guard Alyssa Colla gave NMU the 53-49 victory.

Mattson said the team was able to maintain their composure as their opponents gained momentum.

“We’ve done a great job getting leads no matter who we’re playing,” Mattson said. “Teams are coming out in desperation mode trying to get back in the game, and they start scoring on desperation shots. We’ve stayed composed down the stretch and handled our emotions properly and gotten the ball where we need to get it. Our girls have been able to climb out of tough situations and just found ways to win all year.”

NMU shot 34.8 percent from the floor, making 16 of 46 shots in the game. Malone shot 37 percent, making 20 of their 54 shots. The win improved the ’Cats’ record to 22-7 overall on the season.

The championship was the eighth in the program’s history. It was the first since 2000, and the first under Mattson.

Gruber said her team’s character is playing a vital role in their success.

“There’s a lot of chemistry going on with this team on and off the court,” Gruber said. “It’s really going to help us get through these next few games and serve as motivation over the next couple of days, weeks or however long we can keep this going.”