By Justin Grones (@JustinGrones)
GREEN BAY, Wis. (GreenBayPhoenix.com) - With a 37-24 lead at the 17:47 mark of the second half, the crowd inside the Kress Center erupted as senior Sarah Eichler (Grafton, Wis.) became the 31st member of the Green Bay women's basketball 1,000-point club on a turnaround layup in the post. Eichler led Green Bay (20-2, 10-0 HL) with 14 points as the Phoenix turned down Cleveland State (12-12, 4-7 HL) in an 88-51 Valentine's Day win.
"I give our fans all the credit in the world, I think every person in the Kress knew exactly how many points I needed to get to 1,000," Eichler said. "I did the best I could to push it out of my mind and scored them all on easy layups, and that's what I like."
Following her historic night, head coach Kevin Borseth cited Eichler as a scoring threat and all-around player.
"She's Green Bay's toughness. In the long run it's a statement knowing you were one of the players that hit 1,000 points and she certainly deserves it," Borseth said. "Sarah loads the stat sheet-she scores, she rebounds, she defends and she's a leader in practice. There are certainly a lot of things she can do."
The victory marks the 15th straight for Green Bay, which never trailed in the contest after trailing the Vikings by as much as 12 points in the first meeting this season. The Phoenix had six players in double figures and held an impressive 37-0 advantage in bench scoring.
Eichler's predecessor to the 1,000 point club, fellow senior Adrian Ritchie (De Pere, Wis.) opened the game with a three less than a minute into the action, sparking a 9-2 run to open the contest. But 12 offensive rebounds for the Vikings in the first half kept the game close in the beginning, as Shalonda Winton knotted the score at 15-15 with 12:10 remaining.
Cleveland State came within one at 25-24 with 8:03 remaining in the first half, but it was the last time the Vikings would score for nearly 13 minutes.
"We really needed that run, Cleveland State is a hard team to play against with the scheme they use and they always have five athletes on the court that can take it to the hole," Borseth said.
Jenny Gilbertson (Wabasha, Minn.) scored seven straight points for the Phoenix, helping the team take a 37-24 lead into the break. Green Bay carried its 17-0 run nearly five minutes into the second half, but neither team scored for the first two minutes of the second frame before Eichler took a pass from Megan Lukan (Barrie, Ontario), spun in the post and put up a layup at the 17:47 mark for her 1,000th career point.
Freshman Brionna Barnett (Elkhart, Ind.) had a career night in 12 second-half minutes, tallying a career-high 13 points on 5-6 shooting-including an impressive 3-4 mark from long range. She scored her first points on a pullup jumper in the paint, giving the Phoenix a 52-29 lead with 12:02 to play.
"This is all because of my teammates, I know they have confidence in me so when I come in I try not to mess up and I know they'll help me out," Barnett said. "It's also nice knowing my teammates have the same goal as me."
Breannah Ranger (Skokie, Ill.) put Green Bay up 80-49 with 3:28 remaining, marking the third time this season the team has scored 80 or more points. With 2:53 remaining, Barnett made an upperclassman move with a crossover and pull-up jumper, pushing the lead to 83-49.
Ranger would score the final five points for the Phoenix, leaving the final score at 88-51. The win completes the season sweep over the Vikings, and Green Bay's 88 points was the second-highest mark this season after scoring 99 in a 99-53 win over UIC on Feb. 2.
Eichler finished her historic night with 14 points on 7-11 shooting, while Barnett had a career-high 13 after entering the game with just 11 points for the season. Ritchie, Gilbertson and Lydia Bauer (Lake Zurich, Ill.) all had 12 points, while Ranger added 11.
Shalonda Winton led the Vikings with a game-high 21 points and 11 rebounds, while Cori Coleman added 17.
NEXT ON THE SCHEDULE: The Phoenix will play its third of four straight at home on Saturday, hosting second-place Youngstown State at 2 p.m. Green Bay defeated the Penguins 59-41 on Jan. 19 with the help of 3-4 three-point shooting from Gilbertson.
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