Women’s Basketball: Phoenix outlast Raiders in overtime

Andrew Smith, Sports Editor
February 27, 2014
Filed under Sports, Top Stories, Women's Basketball

One night before country music star Brad Paisley puts on a show for a capacity crowd at the Nutter Center, the top two teams in the Horizon League took center stage and waged an instant classic.

The Green Bay Phoenix needed five extra minutes to put away Wright State 79-72 Thursday night in Fairborn in a game that featured five lead changes and 13 ties.

The Phoenix made all four of their field goals in overtime and held the Raiders to four points and 1-of-8 shooting from the field.

KC Elkins applies pressure defense to a Green Bay player during Thursday night’s game.

The Win for Green Bay (17-8, 10-3), coupled with Youngstown State’s 73-65 loss to Illinois-Chicago earlier in the night, means the Phoenix have sole-possession of first place with three games remaining. Green Bay will visit Valparaiso Saturday and will return to Wisconsin for home games against Oakland and Detroit on March 6 and 8.

Phoenix head coach Kevin Borseth said after the game his team was fortunate to make timely shots down the stretch in the face of a relentless Raiders defense.

“That was really anybody’s game. I don’t know that we ran anything that organized in the last five minutes of the game or five minutes of overtime. We got so much pressure from Wright State. They just gave us so much heat. We just really couldn’t run anything…we had a tough time scoring. The ones we did make it was like, ‘whew, we made it.’ We just hit some shots and I think that was the difference,” Borseth said.

Five Phoenix players finished in double-figures, including freshman Mehryn Kraker who lead Green Bay with 19 points. Guard Tesha Buck and forward Breannah Ranger both finished with a double-double for the Phoenix.

With the game tied 68-68, following a Breanna Stucke 3-pointer, Green Bay possessed the ball with just over 15 seconds left. Ranger was called for an offensive foul with 3.4 seconds left, handing the ball back to WSU. Tay’ler Mingo was unable to get a shot off before the buzzer and the game headed to overtime.

In the extra frame, the Phoenix maintained a four-point lead with 30 seconds remaining. Kim Demmings missed consecutive shots for the Raiders and the Phoenix were able to fend off WSU in the waning seconds.

“It’s frustrating. We put a lot into this game, [we] prepared and I felt like we went out there and played our hardest and the outcome wasn’t what we liked,” Demmings said. “We’re just going to get back in the gym tomorrow and prepare for the next game.”

Demmings and Ivory James led WSU with 20 points each. Forward Tayler Stanton added three points and 14 rebounds in 27 minutes of work. Stucke scored 10 off the bench, hitting two 3s.

WSU looked every bit the part of the best team in the conference during the first half. The Raiders built a 19-11 lead off of an James 3 with 9:30 left before halftime. The Phoenix fought back to tie the game 21-21 before the Raiders again pushed their lead back to 31-24 on a KC Elkins 3.

Green Bay shot only 35.7 percent from the field in the opening 20 minutes and the Raiders held a plus-3 advantage on rebounds.

The Phoenix reversed the momentum in the second half, shooting over 48 percent from the floor and ending the game with a plus-8 rebound advantage – an area of the game Raiders head coach Mike Bradbury said his team needed to compete with Green Bay in order to win.

“[Green Bay] rebounded the ball much better in the second half and that was the difference in the two halves,” Bradbury said. “We were plus-3 in the first half, so we were winning, and they were plus-9 in the second half and that’s your difference. We couldn’t rebound.”

Bradbury said turnovers – normally a statistic that favors the Raiders – stood out to him as the team’s low point in the loss.

“We played hard, we followed the plan. Defensively, we were good. We had a few too many turnovers. That’s where you would have noticed the jitters,” Bradbury said.

The Raiders will have little time to think about what happened Thursday night. Similar to a month ago, WSU will have to play Milwaukee within a 48-hour window of playing Green Bay. The Raiders defeated the Panthers 69-64 on Jan. 25.

Demmings said the chance to forget what happened against the Phoenix will serve as motivation heading into the weekend.

“We’re going to get our minds right. If anything, it should motivate us to be better, play harder and be tougher,” Demmings said.

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