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KC Blahnik's jumper as time expired sent the Lakeland College women's basketball team into overtime against Benedictine where the Muskies rolled, defeating the Eagles 81-72 in Northern Athletics Conference play Saturday afternoon in Lisle, Ill.
Down by 17 points early in the second half, Lakeland (5-2, 3-0 NAC) worked the Benedictine advantage down to single digits with eight minutes to play. Trailing by eight with two minutes remaining, the Muskies used a layup and four straight free throws to cut the deficit to two. A missed Benedictine 3-pointer with 13 seconds on the clock gave Lakeland possession and allowed Blahnik (Gladstone, Mich.) to send the game to overtime.
The Muskies broke open the extra session, taking their first lead of the game by scoring the first seven points. After a pair of Benedictine free throws cut the lead to five, the Muskies ended all of their possessions at the free throw line, hitting 10-of 12 to remain undefeated in NAC play.
"We came out better than Thursday, but had a different game plan defensively that we struggled with," Lakeland head coach Teri Johnson said. "We adjusted at halftime, fixing some small things that allowed us to play better in the second half."
Blahnik led all scorers with 23 points and completed 9-of-10 free throw attempts along with grabbing 10 rebounds. Kasey Gussert (Kingsford, Mich.) added 16 points and three steals. Autumn Gaylor (Ingleside, Ill.) and Mary Dennewitz (Chicago, Ill.) both added double figures off the bench, scoring 16 and 12, respectively, as the Muskies relied on 40 bench points in the victory.
"We rely on our bench to contribute every night," said Johnson. "Mary kept her turnovers down, scoring 12 points with one turnover. Autumn stepped up tremendously under the basket and at the free throw line. We've been waiting for her to step up and today she showed what she is capable of. Erin Cepa (Glenview, Ill.) gave us a big boost as a couple of our guards were in foul trouble and she played really well at the point."
Lakeland held pace with the Eagles early in the first half, only finding itself down no more than four points through ten minutes. Benedictine broke away after Lakeland tied the score at 18-18, scoring 12 straight points to take a 30-18 advantage. The teams traded field goals in the final four minutes to end the half as Benedictine took a 27-28 lead into halftime.
"We haven't been shooting well," said Johnson. "Things haven't been easy for us, and we have to play through it. We're a young team, but our leadership from our upper classmen will help us get through."
The Muskies shot 39 percent on 25-of-64 shooting for the game. Their 26 free throws made were seven more than Benedictine attempted.
Tracey Walsh scored 16 points and added 16 rebounds for the Eagles as they out-rebounded Lakeland 56-42.
Lakeland returns to NAC action next Saturday afternoon, squaring off against Concordia University Chicago at 2 p.m.