22-8 season ends in overtime upset for Women’s Basketball

Ray Bressette

The No. 4-seed NMU women’s basketball season ended in a 65-58 overtime loss to the No. 5-seed Quincy University Hawks in the NCAA Division II women’s basketball Midwest Regional tournament on Friday, March 14.A jumper from junior guard Alyssa Colla gave the Wildcats a 10-point lead with 7:07 remaining in regulation.

The women’s basketball team graduates two seniors, forwards Katie Becker and Annie Rubendunst. The team finished 22-8 under head coach Troy Mattson and the ’Cats earned their first GLIAC championship since 2000. (Sports Information Photo)

The Hawks tied the game, 52-52, with 2:57 remaining, before both teams traded free-throws in the final minutes, sending the game into overtime.Head coach Troy Mattson said the game was a tale of missed chances.

“We had opportunities we didn’t capitalize offensively on throughout the game,” Mattson said. “Unfortunately, we ended up finding ourselves in overtime and just got outplayed in the final minutes.”Quincy completed the comeback, outscoring NMU 12-5 in overtime and taking the contest 65-58 to end the ’Cats 10-game win streak, and season.

Freshman guard Bre Gaspervich said she isn’t going to let the tournament struggles take away from the team’s success this season.“It’s a tough loss, but we have to think about what we accomplished this season,” Gaspervich said. “We can’t dwell on our final loss, and we just have to think about moving into next year.

“We all knew that we could have done better and continued further into the tournament. But we won the GLIAC, and we came out second in our conference in the regular season. Next year, hopefully we’ll be able to win the region and maybe even go further in the tournament.”

The loss was the final game as a Wildcat for senior forwards Annie Rubendunst and Katie Becker. Rubendunst said she was glad she could bring the program to its first NCAA appearance in four years.

“Our freshman year was kind of like a rebuilding year,” Rubendunst said. “The team had a good season the year before I got here, but we weren’t really able to get back to that success until this year. I’m proud that we were able to come together and win the GLIAC my last season and get to the tournament.”

In her final game as a Wildcat in the tournament, Rubendunst led the ’Cats in scoring with 20 points in the game. Mattson said both seniors were great contributors for the program over the years.

“The two players were really different scenarios,” Mattson said. “Both are really great people who work hard at what they do, and will go on to do great things in life.

“Unfortunately, Katie didn’t see the same opportunities on the court that others did, but she was always supportive and never had a problem. Annie had an absolutely incredible senior year, and really helped lead us to our championship and into regionals.”

The Wildcats finished the season with a 22-8 record. The ’Cats won the 2014 GLIAC tournament championship, 53-49, over Malone University on Sunday, March 9 in Detroit. NMU defeated rival Michigan Tech, 59-54, in the tournament semifinal on Saturday, March 8 to get to the championship game.

The championship was the ’Cats eighth in the women’s basketball history, and first since 2000. Mattson said he was proud of what his team could do for the university.

“We really had a great season,” Mattson said. “Our university hadn’t won a team championship in twelve years, so that’s something that this group and the fans can be proud of. It’s unfortunate that we got into some trouble at the end in the last game; we could have gone further and done more, but it really was a season of accomplishments.”

The season featured a number of individual accomplishments for the Wildcats, as well. Rubendunst, Colla and junior guard Lauren Gruber were each named to the all-GLIAC tournament team. Gruber earned the MVP award of the GLIAC tournament.Colla became the 23rd player in program history to reach 1,000 career points this season, and was named to the All-Midwest region team. Colla led the Wildcats on offense this season, averaging 16.4 points per game on the season. Mattson said his athletes were able improve their game individually this season in order to bring home the championship.

“Alyssa accomplished incredible honors as the season went on,” Mattson said. “We also saw great growth from Lauren Gruber and Abbey DeBruin throughout the year.

“A lot of these players returned this year upping their play and giving us incredible lifts, while Bre Gaspervich was able to come in her first year and do a great job chipping in offensively towards the end of the season. We have pretty much everybody coming back, and we have a great group of freshmen coming in, so we’re really excited going into next year.”

Gaspervich said she’s looking forward to what her team will be able to accomplish in her second season with the Wildcats come this fall.

“We came together this season and played through all the adversity we experienced,” Gaspervich said. “We’ve learned to play as a team, and I’m proud that we got as far as we did. Hopefully we can carry our success from this year into next year, and we’ll be ready to make it just as far and win another championship.”