Grand Valley bid for national championship ends in semifinals

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It has been said that a great defense will stop a great attack every time.

Well, not every time.

Grand Valley State University’s bid for an NCAA Division II championship ended in Wednesday night’s national semifinals, losing 77-53 to Glenville State University at Bill Harris Arena in Birmingham, in Alabama. his season at 31-3.

Wednesday’s game featured the most scoring offense in Division II against the nation’s stingiest defense. Glenville, 32-1, entered the semifinals averaging 96.3 points while the Lakers gave up 49.6.

The defense was winning in the first half after the Lakers took a 29-27 halftime lead. But the Lakers could only hold off the Lady Pioneers for so long. The Lady Pioneers opened the scoring with 50 points in the second half.

“In the first half we slowed them down a bit and we did a good job of taking care of the ball and showing some composure,” Lakers coach Mike Williams said. “In the second half, we weren’t disciplined enough and obviously you can’t be shaken up against a great team like that. Give them credit.

The Lakers were making their third trip to the Final Four in program history, and Williams did so after his mother passed away on Sunday — she suffered a heart attack on Thursday. Grand Valley came through adversity and defeated Missouri Western in Monday’s Elite Eight to advance to Wednesday’s semifinal.

The fewest points the Lady Pioneers scored in a game this season was 74, so the Lakers had one of the best defensive efforts of the season against Glenville. Glenville, however, warmed up in the second half. The Lady Pioneers went 22-12 in the third quarter to gain eight points. The Lady Pioneers then went on a 13-0 run in fourth to put it away.

Glenville coach Kim Stephens, who was selected as WBCA Coach of the Year, told CBS Sports the Lady Pioneers struggled with the size of the Lakers in the first half. Grand Valley edged Glenville 41-38.

“It’s a very, very good basketball team,” Stephens said. “I think they’re just tired. That’s why we play the way we do. You have to give yourself a chance. We had easy ones running and scoring interceptions.

The Lakers struggled offensively. Grand Valley shot 37.93 percent from the floor, made 1 of 13 3-point attempts and was 8 of 18 from the free throw line. The Lakers committed 17 turnovers to Glenville’s nine. Glenville finished with 12 interceptions.

Ellie Droste led the Lakers with 14 points while Emily Spitzley finished with 13. Courtney Sharland led Grand Valley on the boards, pulling in nine rebounds. Hadley Miller had seven.

“Grand Valley is a very special place,” said Lakers senior Samantha Gehrls of Caledonia. “Reaching the Final Four is by no means an easy task. I am extremely proud of the daily work this team has gone through. It just takes a lot of perseverance to get to this point. It is a difficult and difficult journey. I know it’s not the result we were hoping for but there’s nothing to get our teeth into because of the season we’ve had.

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