BIG RAPIDS, Mich. – The Michigan Tech women's basketball team rallied for a thrilling 80-77 Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic victory at Ferris State on the road Thursday night. The Huskies battled back from a 13-point deficit in the second half to notch a crucial win in the final seconds. Senior Brenna Heise gave Tech the lead at 78-76 with 31 seconds left and held onto the advantage as the final buzzer sounded.
"Our fourth quarter was clearly the difference in the game tonight," Michigan Tech Head Coach Kim Cameron said. "Being able to stay in there and fight back from what felt like a 20-point deficit was big. We had a tough time with their pressure tonight and it's something that we are working on and still need to get better at.
"Ferris State is a really good team with Rachel McInerney inside and their guards are very quick to the basket which makes them tough to defend. In the fourth quarter we really buckled down defensively and came up with a couple of big rebounds. I thought Elizabeth Kelliher and Sarah LewAllen gave us some key minutes defensively in the final quarter. It was a very physical game and I thought we handled that much better and finished plays down the stretch. We are continuing to get better as a team and will look prepare for anther road test at Lake Superior State on Saturday."
Michigan Tech (13-2, 7-1 GLIAC) gained the upper hand 16 seconds into the action when junior Elizabeth Kelliher attacked the paint for a layup. Ferris State (8-8, 2-6 GLIAC) countered with the next six points to grab the lead at 6-2 following a layup from Rachel McInerney at the 8:25 mark. The Huskies then tied the game at 6-6 thanks to a mid-range jumper with just over three minutes being elapsed from the first quarter clock.
The contest then settled into a pattern of back and forth as each side traded baskets during the next few minutes. Alexis Bush gave Ferris State a 14-10 lead with 3:41 left in the first on a layup, but five consecutive points by the Huskies pushed Tech back in front. Senior Hannah Stoll dropped in a layup followed by a triple from Winter to make it a 15-14 score with 2:31 to go in the first period.
Ferris State then began to establish a foothold when they engineered an 11-0 scoring burst starting at the end of the first quarter and into the early portion of the second period. McInerney added two points to her total on a layup to cap the run, making it a 23-15 score in Ferris State's favor with 8:41 to play until the break.
The Bulldogs built their lead to 31-22 with 5:20 left in the second quarter, but senior Brenna Heise kept Tech close with a conventional three-point play and mid-range jumper, cutting the deficit to four points at 31-27 with just under four minutes left in the second. Ferris State went up by three possessions at 41-34 on a Bush layup in the final minute of the half, but two key free throws by junior Michelle LaFave with 1.6 seconds left in the quarter kept the Huskies within five at 41-36 going into the locker room at halftime.
The Bulldogs appeared to have taken control of the game midway through the third when they established their largest lead of the night. Lilly George knocked down a layup to make it 55-42 with 5:43 to go in the third. Fortunately, the Huskies were able to chip away at the gap, starting with a key three-point bucket by senior Kelli Guy a few seconds later.
Trailing 58-48 with just over four minutes to go in the third, the Huskies sliced the deficit in half on a Stoll layup and conventional three-point play from Winter at the 2:30 mark. However, the Bulldogs prevented Tech from drawing any closer than five during the remainder of the third period and carried a 65-58 advantage into the fourth quarter.
Michigan Tech remained persistent and got to within three points at 69-66 on a layup by Kelliher with 6:34 to go in the fourth. The Bulldogs went up by as many as seven points again before two Heise free throws made it a three-point contest once again at 73-70 with 4:22 left in the fourth quarter. Two more Heise free throws brought the Huskies to within one at 73-72 a few seconds later, but Tech couldn't quite overtake Ferris State until the final minute.
Adrienne Anderson kept Ferris State ahead by two points at 76-74 with 1:31 remaining, but the lead for the Bulldogs would evaporate 11 seconds later. Kelliher got behind the defense for a layup to knot the score at 76-76 and then a Bulldog turnover granted the Huskies an opportunity to go in front, which they took advantage of.
Heise made the go ahead layup off an assist by Guy with 30.5 second to play and two clutch free throws from Winter helped seal the 80-77 win. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs missed three free throws while the Tech defense buckled down to force a tough three-point shot at the buzzer by Bush which was off target.
All five of Tech's starters had 10 points or more, led by Heise with a team high 19 points. Guy closed the contest with 17 points followed by Kelliher with 16 points and a team best seven rebounds. Winter chipped in 12 points, nine assists, and six rebounds while Stoll rounded out the double digit scorers with 10 points. LaFave finished Thursday's game with six points on the stat sheet.
As a team, the Huskies found the target on 30 of 72 shots from the field (41.7%), they were 5 of 20 from behind the arc (25.0%), and 15 of 16 at the free throw line (93.8%). Tech's defense forced 13 turnovers which led to 14 points on the offensive end of the floor. The Huskies also hauled down 14 offensive rebounds which produced 20 second chance points.
The Bulldogs were powered by McInerney with a game high 30 points and 16 rebounds. Riley Blair was the only other Ferris State player to land in double digits with 11 points. Leah Humes recorded eight points and six assists in Thursday's game. The Bulldogs dialed in 30 of 64 total shot attempts from the field (46.9%), they were 2 of 12 from three-point range (16.7%), and 15 of 23 at the free throw line (65.2%). Ferris State out-rebounded the Huskies 43-35 and had 48 points in the paint.
The Huskies will be back in action on Saturday when they travel to Lake Superior State for another GLIAC contest starting at 1 p.m. The Lakers fell to Northern Michigan on Thursday at home 79-63.