One last victory at home

Levi Erkkila

In the final home games of the regular season, the Northern Michigan Women’s Basketball team recorded a weekend sweep. The Wildcats defeated the Saginaw Valley State University Cardinals (SVSU) Thursday and on Saturday the ’Cats celebrated Senior Day with a win against and the Northwood University (NU) Timberwolves. NMU finished with a 10-3 home record.

“[The players] have to be tough on both ends of the court,” assistant coach Casey Thousand said. “They have to believe in themselves to do it.”

Senior guard Darby Youngstrom led the way with 18 points and added six rebounds. Senior center Taylor Hodell finished with 10 points and five rebounds. Junior forward Erin Honkala finished with a team best of 12 rebounds and tallied three blocked shots. Junior center Jessica Schultz chipped in with four assists.

Thursday’s game was the fifth time this season NMU held an opponent under 40 points. SVSU shot just 24.5 percent shooting from the field and 22 percent from behind the three-point arc.

The Wildcats opened the game with an impressive conversion of their shots and led 17-10 at the end of the first quarter fueled in large part by a 9-4 run midway through the quarter.

Halfway through the second quarter, the Wildcat advantage remained at seven, 23-16. With three minutes left in the half NMU extended their lead to 30-21. The teams went into the break with the Wildcats leading 32-22.

To start the second half Northern went on a 15-0 run lasting over eight minutes to take a commanding 42-22 lead. With under two minutes left to play in the third quarter, SVSU scored their first points of the second half. NMU held a 48-25 lead as the teams headed into the fourth quarter.

The Cardinals pushed back in the final frame, cutting the deficit to 50-34 three minutes in. NMU extended the lead back up to 20, 54-35 with five minutes remaining in the game. The lead was too much to overcome for the Cardinals and the Wildcats cruised to a 56-38 win.

The defense shined yet again for NMU Saturday as the ’Cats held an opponent to under 50 points for the ninth time during the season.

Youngstrom led the Wildcats in scoring, finishing with 17 points and 11 rebounds for her second double-double of the season. Honkala tied her season-high of 14 points and contributed with six rebounds. Sophomore guard Lexi Smith finished with six rebounds and added six points.

“One of the big things we have had all year is our depth,” Thousand said. “We have been able to go five-in-five out.”

The Timberwolves started the game on a 9-0 run and put NMU into an early scoring hole. The Wildcats scored two baskets while keeping NU off the board during a 2:23 stretch. NMU added another basket, sending Northwood into the second quarter with a 9-6 lead.

The Wildcats continued their rally into the second quarter and took an 11-9 lead under two minutes into the second frame. With five minutes left in the half Northern extended their lead to 17-11. The half time score was 23-18 in favor of NMU.

The teams traded scores to start the second half and the Wildcat advantage was 28-23 with 7:13 on the clock. NU tied the game at 28-28 but the ’Cats would go on to score seven unanswered points and take a 35-28 lead with 2:15 to go into the quarter. The teams entered the fourth quarter with NMU clinging onto a 38-33 lead.

The fourth quarter opened with NU pulling within just a single basket. NMU went on another 7-0 run to take a 45-37 lead with six minutes to play in the game. The Wildcat defense held strong which helped the offense pull away and with under a minute on the clock and close out a closed a 54-43 victory.

At the conclusion of the game, the team honored their five seniors for their contributions to the program: guard Chloe Tompkins, guard Tess Weatherly, guard Sydney Dillinger, Hodell and Youngstrom.

The Wildcats improve to 17-6 on the season and are now 12-3 in the GLIAC.

“We don’t really look at [the standings], we are looking at our next game because anything can happen,” Thousand said. “You take it one game at a time.”

NMU will now hit the road for their final five games of the season, beginning with a road trip to Ferris State University, tipoff at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 14 and closing the weekend at Lake Superior State University for a 1 p.m. matchup on Saturday, Feb. 16.