Ann Arbor, Michigan- The 24th ranked Lawrence Tech Blue Devils (8-1, 4-0 WHAC) overcame a tough, physical test Wednesday night, to beat the Concordia Cardinals (6-3, 3-2 WHAC), 78-68, and remain unbeaten in Wolverine Hoosier Athletic Conference (WHAC) play.
The Blue Devils experienced a much more physical batter than usual, as the Cardinals defense gave them fits with eight blocks and six steals as a team. When the Cardinals used their size advantage play a grittier game, the Blue Devils struggled. However, when the Blue Devils played their style of basketball, with quick, sharp passes, to open up scoring opportunities, they were able to thrive.
“I thought that defensively, they really came out strong,” Blue Devils head coach Kylene Spiegel said of the Cardinals. “They were super physical with us and they’re just not used to that. They adjustments we really made were to run our offense and be more poised. Make crisps passes, ball fake, shot fake.”
The Cardinals’ defense along with timely scoring from senior guards Kari Borowiak and Brianna Rowe kept them within one point, 32-31 at halftime. After the Blue Devils began to pull away in the fourth quarter, the Cardinals made their comeback with more defensive pressure and senior center Breanne Short scoring four of her eight points from key jumpers. Then the Blue Devils secured the win in the final minutes.
“in this game, we really needed to follow our scouting report better, and just who was going to shoot the ball, shift our defense that way and compete with them that way instead of just using our defense overall,” Short said. “We had great defense, but we need to finish it out. It think that was the biggest piece when we let them pull away.”
Junior forward Nicole Buckingham led Lawrence Tech with 28 points while senior guard Hayley Walkowski added 20. Sophomore forward Danielle Hanson had a double-double with 13 points and 13 rebounds.
Borowiak and Rowe led Concordia with 20 and 15 points, respectively.
This marks the Blue Devils fourth straight win over the Cardinals and their second straight on the road. Their last encounter proved a pivotal one as the Blue Devils win at Concordia helped to secure the fourth seed in the WHAC Tournament. The loss Cardinals, coupled with a loss to Madonna, the eventual fifth seed, in the next game, cost them the fourth seed, as they received the seventh seed. This made this game a must-win for the Cardinals, which makes this loss even more disappointing.
“We expected it to be pretty competitive,” Cardinals head coach Thad Sankey said. “We couldn’t get shots to fall; we had things that rolled out of the basket. We didn’t do a good job of getting stops down the stretch.”
The Blue Devils have won four straight and are now nationally ranked for the first time in two season, but they have reason to remain humble; using as motivation, their low preseason ranking, sixth in the WHAC.
“We just basically try not to get ahead of ourselves,” Buckingham said. “There are good teams in our conference like Concordia. We know that if we look too far ahead, that we’re going to get beat in games that we shouldn’t; so at the end of the day, we keep our mentality as close to home as possible and just focus on the team ahead.”
The Cardinals, who have now received votes in the coaches poll, remain optimistic about their chances of winning the WHAC despite their loss to the Blue Devils.
“We work very hard (and) we put the time in,” Short said. “We’ve gotten a little bit better every year, and this year, we decided that this is our year. We just have it in our minds that mentality that we just want to go all the way this year, and we have what it takes.”
Up next for both teams are Saturday home games at 1pm. Lawrence Tech will host Rochester College while Concordia faces Northwestern Ohio.