HOUGHTON, Mich. – The Michigan Tech women's basketball team closed out the 2018-19 regular season with a 60-55 Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference victory over rival Northern Michigan Thursday night in the SDC Gym. The Huskies claimed their 16th GLIAC North/Conference title and locked down the No.3 seed in the conference tournament which begins on Tuesday against the No. 6 seed Northwood.
"I'm so happy for our team and players," Michigan Tech Head Coach Sam Hoyt said. "They deserve this championship and have worked hard and grown so much throughout this year. That hard work showed tonight and for our team to step up and get this win on Senior Night was pretty incredible. It's really nice that we are able to host a quarterfinal game because it gives us such an advantage with the support from the fans that we have here. We need to rest up a bit and then we'll get back to work to prepare to face a very good Northwood team Tuesday."
Northern Michigan (20-8, 15-5 GLIAC) jumped out to an early lead Thursday night when Elizabeth Lutz fired in a triple in the opening minute of the first half. Neither side scored on their next possessions, but following a Wildcat turnover, junior Abbie Botz put Michigan Tech (20-8, 16-4 GLIAC) on the board to make it a 3-2 score with 8:13 to play in the first quarter.
The Huskies then pulled even at 5-5 on a triple by senior Elizabeth Kelliher before a trey from Northern Michigan's Erin Honkala gave the Wildcats the edge again at 8-5. Tech junior Ellie Welsh knotted the game again at 11-11 on a three pointer of her own and from there the two sides continued to exchange point for point through the end of the first quarter. Botz generated the final basket of the period for the Huskies to send the contest into the second frame tied at 13-13.
The Huskies began to shift the momentum in their favor with five consecutive points to begin the second quarter. Kelliher provided a conventional three-point play out of the gate and then freshman Ellie Mackay made her way to the free throw line after a Northern Michigan foul. Mackay sighted in both attempts at the charity stripe, building the Huskies lead to 18-13 with 7:46 to play in the first half.
The Wildcats broke their mini scoring drought when Darby Youngstrom came up with a conventional three-point play of her own to make it 18-16. However, the Huskies defense kept the Wildcats from putting a run together and over the course of the final minutes of the half created an eight-point separation at 31-23. Two free throws from sophomore Cassidy Trotter were the catalyst that gave the Huskies their biggest lead of the game at that point.
Amber Huebner briefly pulled the Wildcats back to within six points at 31-25 with 1:36 to play until the intermission before freshman Sloane Zenner reclaimed the eight-point edge just prior the end of the second quarter. Zenner intercepted a pass near the timeline and went to the basket for a layup a couple seconds before the horn, giving Tech a 33-25 advantage with 20 minutes in the books.
The Wildcats struck quickly with four points to begin the third period and sliced the gap to 33-29. The Huskies bumped it back to eight points at 37-29 on a Botz layup with 5:50 on the clock, but Northern Michigan countered again to draw to within three at 37-34 via a layup by Schultz with 3:45 left. Botz then moved the Huskies' advantage out to 10 points at 44-34 on a layup with 1:40 left in the third. However, the Wildcats would not go away quietly and closed the quarter with a conventional three-point play by Youngstrom, making it a 46-40 ballgame with 10 minutes left.
The Wildcats kept inching closer throughout the fourth quarter and eventually regained the lead at 53-51 on a layup by Schultz with 3:07 left. Trotter then stepped up for the Huskies and connected on what would arguably be the shot of the night. Trotter lined up a triple from the top of the key on the ensuing possession, vaulting the Huskies ahead once again 54-53. Welsh followed with a layup and from there Tech held off Northern Michigan for the 60-55 victory.
Four Huskies produced 10 or more points in Thursday's game, powered by Botz and Mackay with 12 points each. Botz reeled in 10 rebounds for her sixth double-double of the year. Kelliher followed with 11 points while adding three more blocked shots to her season totals. Kelliher is also just 17 points shy of reaching 1,000 career points going into the postseason. Welsh rounded out the double digit scorers with 10 points and distributed a team high four assists in the victory.
As a team, the Huskies made 20 of 45 shots from the field (44.4%), were 7 for 11 from behind the arc (63.6%), and 13 of 16 at the charity stripe (81.3%). Tech outscored Northern Michigan 24-18 in the paint and produced 28 points off of 23 Wildcat miscues.
Northern Michigan was led by Amber Huebner off the bench with a game high 17 points followed by Youngstrom with 16 points and a team best nine rebounds. Schultz finished with eight points and added three assist and three steals to the stat sheet. The Wildcats were successful on 18 of 37 shots from the field (48.6%), were 6 for 10 from three-point range (60.0%), and 13 for 13 at the free throw line (100.0%).
The Huskies are the No. 3 seed in the GLIAC Tournament and will host Northwood University Tuesday night in the quarterfinal round. Tech won both meetings with the Timberwolves during the regular season, 78-68 in Midland and 70-40 in Houghton. Tuesday's game is slated for 5:30 p.m. eastern time.