Southfield, Michigan-Fourth seeded Lawrence Tech (18-12) defeated fifth seeded Madonna (16-12) Wednesday night, 84-74, in it’s first round home game in the Wolverine Hoosier Athletic Conference (WHAC) Tournament. In a contest that was very fast paced, Sophomore forward Nicole Buckingham and senior forward Allison Kitchen were difference makers that propelled their team to a second round showdown with top seed, Davenport.
Buckingham, a 2016 All-WHAC First Team selection, scored a game high 24 points and also had eight rebounds and four steals. Kitchen, in her final home game, scored 18 points. It was during a critical stretch of the game however, where these two came through to provide the turning point of the game.
Lawrence Tech’s lead was down to a single point when Kitchen scored a key basket to give her team a 60-57 lead at the 8:55 mark in the fourth quarter. Then on the next possession, Buckingham scored off of a difficult shot with the shot clock winding down to give the home team a five-point lead. Those two scores marked the beginning of a 13-3 by Lawrence Tech that Madonna was never quite able to recover from despite two late threes by Madonna’s junior guard Lindsey Hernden.
“We knew we needed buckets,” Buckingham said. “We do a drill in practice where we have to score and just that mentality carried over. We were just really prepared. That’s ultimately what it comes down to.”
Buckingham came up big in other key points, continuously putting the pressure on Madonna. Her second quarter three at the 4:11 mark put Lawrence Tech up 30-20, then the largest lead of the game. After Madonna’s junior forward Becca Sabol scored in the third quarter to cut the deficit to six points, Buckingham answered with a basket at the 2:27 mark, giving Lawrence Tech a 50-42 lead. Head coach Kylene Spiegel places a lot of pressure and confidence in the sophomore.
“She put a lot of pressure on me for sure, but I put a lot of pressure on myself as well,” Buckingham said. “It’s nice that she holds me accountable and has high expectations and ultimately, she’s pushed me to where I am today, and I’m never going to be able to thank her enough for all the hard work and effort she put into me. Yeah, I’m just really lucky to have her as a coach”
Lawrence Tech beat Concordia last week to clinch the fourth seed, and chance to play one more game at home. This enabled Kitchen and fellow seniors, guard Christina Henry and forwards Maegan Branhnam and Anne Tucker to experience one more game in front of their energized home fans and further extend their careers.
“It’s the best feeling ever,” Kitchen said. “You have to give everything you can because you want to win. The next game’s not guaranteed. You have to make the most of the game you’re in now. You have to live in the present. So, I’m excited we won (and) I get to go out and play another game, (and) hopefully another game.”
Hernden led Madonna with 22 points while Sabol had a double double with 20 points and 11 rebounds. It was Sabol’s basket with 9:09 left in the game that brought her team to within one point before Lawerence Tech took over.
The loss marked the final games of the collegiate careers for both forward Miranda Fuerst, and guard Jessica Hayes, who had 13 points and seven assists. Hayes fouled out of the game, but received a standing ovation from the Madonna fans that made the trip to Southfield. That only seemed fitting considering the journey she has had, including a stop at Oakland University before arriving at Madonna.
“Michelle had been through a lot of adversity in her life,” Madonna head coach Carl Graves said. “She lost her mom at a really young age. She’s been through so many things and she’s a much better person than she is a basketball player. Anyone in our conference will tell you she’s a phenomenal basketball player. She had the player of the year award in our league and she was one of the leading scorers, top three this year, I think she might had been number one overall. So she can definitely score the basketball, she’s a wonderful leader. That means the world to me to be able to recruit players like that to Madonna.”
Hayes and Sabol were both also All-WHAC First Team selections.
Lawrence Tech will now head to Grand Rapids to face Davenport in a second round battle Saturday. Davenport will be the favorite, but had to survive a first round scare, beating Aquinas, 64-61.