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With four double-digit scorers contributing to a strong offensive output, the Lakeland College women's basketball team opened its season with a 72-60 non-conference victory over Augustana College (Rock Island, Ill.) in game one of the seventh annual "Play with Grace" Coaches vs. Cancer Tip-Off Tournament on Friday, Nov. 16, at Lakeland.
With the win, the Muskies (1-0) will move on to play in the tournament championship game on Saturday against Ripon College, who defeated Northland College, 59-48, in the second game of the night. Game time is set for 4 p.m.
Senior transfer guard Peggy Keiper sparkled in her debut as a Muskie, putting up a game-high 24 points, including six 3-pointers.
"I was excited to be playing on a new team," Keiper said. "We played as a team very well tonight, and helped each other bounce back as a team and never gave up at the end."
Keiper's 3-point clinic was supplemented by three additional made shots from behind the arc by sophomore guard Terra Hiben for nine of her 13 points. Sophomore guard KC Blahnik also produced a steady all-around effort, and was just shy of a double-double with 12 points and eight boards. She also dished out a team-high six assists.
The Muskies (1-0) began to pull ahead of the Vikings early in the first half, despite the fact that Augustana's first eight points all came from forward Sarah Miers, who finished the game with a team-high 20 points. However, the Muskies took the lead for good on a made 3-pointer by freshman guard Mary Dennewitz, and went into the locker room at half with the 39-32 advantage.
"Overall I felt like we kept our composure very well," said head coach Teri Johnson. "I wanted the girls to go out there with confidence because we have been practicing for almost four weeks and we're to the point where we are ready to compete with someone else."
That composure for a young Lakeland squad was tested in the second half when Augustana cut the lead to four with just over two minutes to go.
Sophomore guard Megan Chart stepped up to the challenge, knocking down a jumper and a huge 3-pointer to give the Muskies a 10-point cushion with 36 seconds to play. Junior guard Kasey Gussert closed out the game with a pair of made free throws to give the Muskies the win.
"A lot of these girls have experience, so we needed to use that experience and confidence out there," Johnson said. "I thought especially in the last five minutes of the game, you could see the composure on their faces, so I was proud of that.
"I also thought we did a good job of executing our offenses and not relying on one or two people to step up. Megan Chart did a good job of stepping up in the end, and Kasey Gussert and KC Blahnik hit some very important free throws for us. Brenda (Paulson) was big inside for us as well, and it didn't take Peggy long to find her niche around the 3-point arc."
Paulson, a senior forward, also played an important role in the squad's victory, finishing with 10 points, seven rebounds and snagging a team-high four steals.
Although the Muskies found themselves out-rebounded by the Vikings, 45-35, the home squad won the turnover battle, and finished the game with 14 to Augustana's 18.
"Our turnovers were another positive," Johnson said. "We only had four at half, and I thought that was huge for us."
Johnson hopes to see many of the same strong points in tomorrow's championship game that she saw tonight.
"I think our intensity definitely needs to match tonight's, and we need to bring that same game in terms of offensive selection and execution tomorrow," Johnson said. "We just have to be ready, and only celebrate for a small amount of time tonight. We need to focus on tomorrow and who we match up with."