Senior weekend can inch ’Cats closer to playoffs

Ray Bressette

The Wildcat women’s basketball team will close out their season play at the Berry Events Center this weekend, hoping to extend their season into the playoffs.

But with a rivalry matchup against the Lake Superior State University Lakers followed by a probable game to decide the seventh seed in the tournament with the Northwood Timberwolves, NMU knows nothing will be handed to them these final two weeks.re-WBball2_ET

NMU head coach Troy Mattson said the Lakers put great effort into their matchup when they come to Marquette.

“There are no easy games in this league, and you have to come ready to play every single night,” Mattson said. “It’s a rivalry game, and they’re going to get up to play this game every time. We have to be maxed out and ready to go, and concentrate on LSSU and nobody else.”

NMU tips off against LSSU at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 18. The Wildcats will then play their last home game of the season at 11 a.m. against Northwood, with a pregame ceremony honoring NMU’s two seniors, forwards Alyson Makovitch and Kendall Martenet.

Makovitch has played four seasons for the green and gold, while Martenet is nearing the end of the second season of her Wildcat career after transferring from the Division I University of New Hampshire in 2014.

Mattson said his two seniors stepped up their presence in the locker room this season.

“At the end of last year, we didn’t know who our leaders were or if we had any leadership,” Mattson said. “Last year’s senior group was so strong, we didn’t know who would take over. [Matkovich and Martenet] have done an incredible job of leading in their way. They came to practice talking every single day, never pouted or did anything other than making sure they get better.

“One of my goals is making sure your seniors leave with a positive frame of mind, and right now, I’m really happy about the way our season is falling into place for them.”

For the season to fall into a playoff spot to end the seniors’ career, NMU needs to bring their recent road success home for their final weekend at the Berry. The Wildcats have won three-straight games, including an upset road win over the GLIAC North Division leading Saginaw Valley Cardinals on Feb. 11 and a comeback win over the Hillsdale Chargers on Feb. 12.

Freshman guard Tess Weatherly nailed a layup in the final seconds of Saturday’s game to erase a 10-point deficit with two minutes remaining, setting up a chance to clinch a playoff berth this weekend.

The Wildcats are eighth in the GLIAC at 11-8, holding the final playoff spot for the GLIAC tournament in March. The ’Cats are only one game ahead of Findlay, who sit at ninth with a 10-9 record, while Northwood is right in front of NMU in seventh with an identical 11-8 record. Northwood holds the tiebreaker in the series after a 76-46 win over NMU on Jan. 30 in Midland.

LSSU enters the weekend last in the GLIAC with a 4-15 record, and were victims of a 51-44 Wildcat win on Jan. 28.

NMU assistant coach Mariah Dunham said the Wildcats understand the importance of each match.

“It’s important to focus on one game at a time,” Dunham said. “If we lose Thursday, then nothing we’ve done matters. We need to focus on one game at a time and keep plugging away at our goals in sight. We set goals on making the tournament, but we need to focus on each individual team, then we can progress from there. It’s our goal to get into the tournament and get a good seed and be successful. Some people doubted we would even get in.”

Junior guard Bre Gaspervich is leading NMU with 12.8 points per game, while freshman center Taylor Hodell’s 6.2 rebounds per game is the most for the young ’Cats team building toward the future.

Northwood will play Michigan Tech on Thursday night before coming to Marquette. A Northwood loss Thursday, followed by a Findlay loss plus a Wildcat sweep this weekend, would clinch NMU’s spot in the GLIAC tournament.

Dunham said the team understands they’ll need to win their way into the playoffs.

“We have to take care of ourselves,” Dunham said. “We’re all bunched in the standings, and you can’t count on anybody else to lose. We’re not relying on anybody else. It would be nice if someone helped us out, but that never happens. If we focus on playing well, then getting into the tournament would mean a lot to our players and tell us what kind of people we have on our team. You always need the attitude of never giving up and grinding out a season, and that’s what we’ve done.”