Fifth-seeded Muskies begin NAC Tournament at Aurora
Athletics - posted on 2/23/2009
The Lakeland women's basketball team will head to Aurora, Ill., on Tuesday to face fourth-seeded Aurora at 7 p.m. in the quarterfinals of the Northern Athletics Conference Tournament.
The Muskies (17-8, 11-6 NAC), seeded fifth, enter tournament play after winning two of their final three contests.
"We're learning a lot about ourselves, especially after we
had lost a couple games in a row a few weeks ago," Lakeland coach Teri Johnson said. "[Monday's] practice went extremely well. For being such a young team, we looked very focused and hope we can maintain that.
"This is the first time playing in the tournament for about half of our team. They have to learn what the NAC Tournament is all about, and we will rely on our older leaders to set the standard for how we represent ourselves."
On Saturday, Lakeland shot 47 percent and forced 21 turnovers en route to a 62-43 home victory over MSOE in the inaugural NAC Challenge Game. Junior forward KC Blahnik (Gladstone, Mich.) paced the Muskies with 14 points and nine rebounds.
Lakeland also won at Marian 60-46 on Feb. 14.
In its only contest of the season against the Spartans (16-9, 13-5), Lakeland saw a 13-point lead disappear just over midway through the second half in a 63-60 home loss. After shooting just 27 percent in the first half, Aurora recovered for 40 points in the second half and forced 26 Muskie turnovers in the contest.
"The turnovers really stick out from that game," Johnson said. "We didn't take care of the ball. [Aurora forward Kim] Voiles came out in the second half and scored on us in the paint. We also didn't shoot well from the outside and gave up 21 points off our turnovers."
Lakeland had a chance to tie in the final seconds, but senior guard Kasey Gussert's desperation 3-pointer fell short.
Aurora enters tournament play having win five of its last seven. In their most recent contest, the Spartans fell to Edgewood 69-48 in last Saturday's NAC Challenge Game.
Aurora averages just under 70 points a game, which is second in the conference, but surrenders 65.8 points per game, which is ninth.
"Aurora is a lot like us, in that they are up-tempo and like to switch looks defensively," Johnson said. "Their guards are very aggressive and are good defenders. We are very familiar with their style of play."
The team's leading scorer, senior Kim Voiles, is averaging 16.9 points per game, which is fourth in the league. Her 8.2 rebounds per contest are good for sixth in the NAC.
The Muskies enter the tournament as the league's second-ranked defense, giving up just 57.3 points a game.
Lakeland has four players averaging between seven and 12 points. Blahnik is the team's leader in points (11.8) and rebounds (7.7) per game, and total assists (50).
The winner of the Lakeland-Aurora contest will move on to face the winner of the No. 1 Wisconsin Lutheran-No. 8 Rockford match-up on Thursday.
"We have to take each game one at a time," Johnson said. "You can't overlook anyone in this league."
The winner of the NAC Tournament will receive the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Division III Tournament.
for more information on the 2009 NAC Women's Basketball Tournament.
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