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The Lakeland College women's basketball team clinched the "Play with Grace" Coaches vs. Cancer Tip-Off Tournament title with a 51-31 victory over Ripon College in the championship game on Saturday, Nov. 17, at Lakeland. It's the first time Lakeland has won the tournament title since 2004.
"It means a lot to bring the championship back to Lakeland," said head coach Teri Johnson. "The one thing I knew would help us out this weekend was keeping our composure and using our experience. The girls are used to these pressure situations, and really pulled through and held it together. We didn't have a very good first half, but we came out in the second half and played some solid defense."
Both teams struggled in the first half, combining for a messy 25 turnovers. The Muskies (2-0) held a slim 22-18 lead heading into the locker room, thanks in part to sophomore guard Terra Hiben, who knocked down 13 points in the first half, shooting 4-for-8 from the field and 5-for-6 from the free-throw line.
"Terra Hiben had some big plays in the first half that kept us in the game," Johnson said. "I have definitely been impressed with her play throughout the last four weeks. I knew she had the capability to play at this level, and she has been composed and taken things into her own hands. Megan Chart is also somebody we definitely have to have on the floor. They both made crucial plays that helped keep us in the game."
Lakeland cleaned up its game significantly in the second half with improved shooting and a greater level of intensity on defense. Chart, a sophomore guard, and senior power forward Peggy Keiper gained the Muskies their biggest lead of the game, as Chart hit a jumper followed by a 3-pointer from Keiper to put the squad up, 30-20, at the 15:54 mark.
Defense also played a key role in the second half, as the Muskies forced the Redhawks into 17 second half turnovers, bringing their total to 30 for the game. Ripon was also held to a dismal 17.9 percent shooting effort from the floor, which helped Lakeland build a second half lead.
"In the first half I didn't feel like we had the same intensity and desire to come out and play strong like we did yesterday," Johnson said. "We talked about it at halftime, and the girls definitely stepped it up and rose to the occasion seeing that it was the championship game."
Hiben, who was named the tournament MVP and earned a spot on the all-tournament team, finished with a game-high 15 points. She also led the Muskies on the boards with eight rebounds, six on the offensive glass, and snagged six steals.
"It's good to get off to a good start this season," Hiben said. "I knew I needed to step up this year, and I put in a lot of time this summer to prove that I want to play."
Keiper was also named to the all-tournament team. After a rough first half, she caught fire in the second, draining three shots from behind the arc for nine of her 11 points.
Senior guard Brenda Paulson also contributed with seven points, six rebounds and three steals, while Chart was an integral cog in the Muskies' offensive and defensive schemes.
"It wasn't just one person scoring," Hiben said. "Our defense has also improved since our scrimmages, and we had a lot of intensity out there."
Lakeland will continue non-conference play with Carroll College, ranked No. 25 by the Women's DIII News preseason poll, on Tuesday, Nov. 27.
"Just because we won today, we know we still have some things we need to make progress on," Johnson said. "Yes, we want to feel good about the win, but we have a very tough Carroll game coming up in a little over a week. Then we come back two days later and play Edgewood to start off our conference schedule, and then we play Concordia, Wis., that Saturday."
Game time with Carroll is set for 7 p.m. in Waukesha, Wis.