CHAMPS! Green Bay Wins Horizon League Tournament Title
GREEN BAY, Wis. (GreenBayPhoenix.com) - Maybe it was the fact that it wasn't easy. Maybe it was getting revenge against Detroit, the only team to hand Green Bay a loss. Maybe it was the fact that nearly 3,400 fans came to watch. Maybe it was because, as head coach Matt Bollant put it, "winning never gets old." Maybe it was playing for a second-straight Horizon League tournament title. Or maybe it was the thought of securing a bid to its fourth-straight NCAA Tournament.
Whatever the motivation, it was evident both early and late in No. 10/10 Green Bay's (30-1) 66-53 victory over Detroit that the Phoenix really wanted to win Sunday afternoon.
About two hours later, after watching Lydia Bauer (Lake Zurich, Ill.) grab a defensive rebound with 1:05 remaining and his team leading by 11 after a dominant second half, Bollant's passionate fist pump was so intense that it untucked the front of his green shirt.
Lukan's career-high 20 points provided an impressive supplement to senior Julie Wojta's (Mishicot, Wis.) 29-point effort as the duo sparked a Phoenix rally from a 30-27 halftime deficit. Bollant had reason to celebrate as Green Bay reached 30 wins for the second consecutive year and polished off its 12th conference tournament title.
"What a fun day. A great crowd. Playing Detroit, a great team and a team that had beaten us here. There was a lot that went into the game, and I'm really proud of our players," Bollant said.
Despite a quick start which gave it a 7-2 lead early, Green Bay did not see things go its way for much of the first half. After trailing 15-12 with 11:37 on the clock, Detroit went on a 16-4 run to lead 28-19 with 3:05 to play. Freshman Shareta Brown, who had 16 points and seven rebounds at halftime, had the last seven Titan points during the spurt.
That is when Lukan made the two biggest shots of the half. The freshman came in shooting just 31.1 percent from long range, but her second and third threes of the game started an 8-0 run which cut the deficit to 28-27 with 50 seconds left before intermission.
Lukan's previous career high was 13, but she had 11 at halftime and finished with a career-best 20 on 6-of-9 shooting from the field and 3-of-5 from long range. Playing 39 minutes, Lukan also added four rebounds and three assists and was named to the all-tournament team.
"She is a freshman and she stepped up huge," praised Wojta of her point guard. "It is amazing to see how far Megan has come this year. She hit big shots, and she wasn't wide open on some of those threes. This kid can play. She just continues to step up time and time again. I love the mentality that she is playing with and it is only going to help our team."
Second-seeded Detroit, which won 70-58 in Green Bay on Feb. 9, increased its lead to 33-27 when Senee Shearer drained her fourth three on the first possession of the second half. Wojta then scored five points in a row to start a game-changing 17-4 Green Bay run that gave the Phoenix a 44-37 lead with 13:19 left.
Wojta had eight points in the run, including a pair of three-pointers. She made another three with 8:24 to play to put Green Bay a 12-point lead (55-43), and Detroit would not get closer than seven the rest of the way.
The Horizon League Player of the Year, Wojta was also named tournament MVP after scoring 19 of her 29 points in the second half. She finished 10-of-18 from the field, including a perfect 4-of-4 from long range, and added 12 rebounds, four steals and three blocked shots. For the tourney, Wojta had 59 points, made 7-of-9 three-pointers and tied a tournament record with 12 steals.
"Julie was just amazing in that second half," Bollant said. "She just took over the game and said, 'we are not losing this game and I'm going to make it happen.'"
Green Bay made 10-of-19 shots from the field in the second half and finished the game 21-of-45 for 46.7 percent. The Phoenix made 8-of-18 three-pointers. Detroit was just 8-for-26 in the second half and missed eight of its last nine three-pointers. The Titans shot 34.5 percent from the field for the game and made 6-of-19 threes.
Held to just six points after halftime, Brown ended up with 22 points and nine rebounds. Brown, Wright State's Kim Demmings and UIC's Jasmine Bailey joined Wojta and Lukan on the all-tournament team.
With a bid to its 13th NCAA Tournament secured, Green Bay will learn its place in the bracket on Monday night. Phoenix fans are invited to watch the selection with the Phoenix at the Kress Center at the NCAA Tournament Send-Off Celebration and Selection Show Party at 5:30 p.m. For more details, click here.
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