The West Michigan region has already crowned a national collegiate women’s basketball champion this month.
Grand Valley State University is trying to do two.
The Lakers defeated the Missouri Western 67-44 in Monday afternoon’s NCAA Division II Elite 8 at Bill Harris Arena in Birmingham, Ala. The Lakers (31-2) will face third seed Glenville State (33-1) in Wednesday’s national semifinal at 7 p.m. Thurs. Glenville, located in Glenville, W.Va, defeated West Texas A&M 103-56 in Monday’s opener.
Hope College won the Division III title on Saturday for its third national championship and first since 2006. The Lakers are vying for their second national crown, and like the Flying Dutch, it’s since 2006 that they’ve won a title. This is Grand Valley’s second trip to the Final Four under seven-year-old coach Mike Williams. The Lakers lost to Alaska Anchorage in the 2016 National Semifinals.
“We talk about this team as a special group,” Williams said. “It’s not a crazy talent but it’s together and special. That’s all it takes to win, and I think we’ve done that in the last few days.
Emily Spitzley was one of four Lakers to score in double figures on Monday, scoring 20 points to lead the way. Spitzley, a junior from Pewamo-Westphalia, was 3 of 3 from 3-point range and 3 of 3 from the free-throw line. Hannah Kulas, Ellie Droste and Hadley Miller finished with 10 points apiece for the Lakers. Grand Valley was also 12 of 14 from the free throw line.
“It’s exciting to finally be here,” Spitzley said. “Today we played for our coach who sacrificed a lot to be here, so this win means a lot to us.”
The Lakers also did it with rebounding and defense. Grand Valley held a 41-31 edge on the boards, with Kulas, Qay Stanton and Courtney Sharland grabbing seven rebounds apiece. The Lakers held Missouri Western to 29.41 percent shooting for the game and 2 of 14 from 3-point range.
“Last year when we lost in the first round of the tournament, it set the tone for the season,” added Kulas. “Our team is capable of much more. To finally get to this point, these last two games really mean a lot. I am excited and happy for everyone.
Grand Valley led 18-13 after the first quarter and 34-23 at halftime. The Lakers then went on a 12-0 run in the third quarter to pull away for good.