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Clutch shots and key free throws helped the Lakeland College women's basketball team climb out of a five-game slump as the Muskies registered a non-conference win over Beloit College, 61-56, on Thursday, Jan. 10, at Lakeland.
The Muskies (5-8 overall) trailed with just under three minutes remaining in the game, but a pair of 3-pointers by senior guard Peggy Keiper gave the Muskies the lead, 54-53, for the first time since the first half with 2:07 left to play. A solid post move by senior forward Brenda Paulson and a reverse lay-up by sophomore guard Megan Chart gave Lakeland a four-point lead with 32 seconds remaining. Chart closed out the game by knocking down three free throws to seal the win.
"We knew we had to finally come together at the end," said Chart, who finished with 16 points shooting 4-for-6 from the field with three made 3-pointers. "We've been so close so many times this season, and I think everyone out there had the determination not to give this game up. We kept our composure at the end, and Peggy hit some clutch shots. We all hit shots we needed to hit, which was nice to see because we haven't been doing that lately."
Keiper also had a big game for the Muskies on offense, finishing with a team-high 20 points and six 3-pointers.
"We finally connected offensively, and we found the confidence that put us in the driver's seat," said Lakeland head coach Teri Johnson. "It was great to see Megan Chart shoot so consistently tonight, and I thought her game was so crucial for us. Brenda also connected on her shots on the inside and came up with some big plays. Kasey Gussert and Peggy also connected on the outside and helped us out in crucial times."
Lakeland's improved scoring efforts in the second half helped make up for sub-par shooting in the first half, as the Muskies shot just 22.6 percent to trail the Buccaneers, 23-22, heading into the locker room. However, the Muskies' scrappy defense forced Beloit into 17 turnovers for the game, which helped the home squad rally to shoot an improved 44.4 percent in the second half.
Sophomore guard KC Blahnik also made key plays on defense with three steals, and was also a major force on the boards once again, hauling down a team-high nine rebounds followed by Chart with seven.
"We finally know how it feels to win again," Chart said. "We've been in such a slump, so this is a huge confidence-builder. I think we're on a roll, and we're ready for Concordia on Saturday."
Johnson agreed that a giant dose of confidence was just what her team was craving.
"We needed this win for our confidence," Johnson said. "We were so close on Tuesday night (against Concordia, Wis.), and that loss was a heartbreaker for us. The girls have been battling and battling, so it's good to finally get that win and get out of our slump. It's great momentum going into Saturday's game."
Lakeland will look to put its new-found poise to good use on Saturday, Jan. 12, as the team resumes Northern Athletics Conference play with Concordia University Chicago.
"We need a win from here on out in every single conference game," Johnson said. "We have put ourselves in a position where every single conference game is crucial. Our goal is to reach the conference tournament, so every game is a must-win for us."
Game time with Concordia Chicago is set for 2 p.m. at Lakeland.