By Rachel Buck (@GBRachel)
GREEN BAY, Wis. (GreenBayPhoenix.com) – Attacking the paint throughout the contest and getting a career performance from freshman Mariah Monke (Fergus Falls, Minn.) in her first collegiate start, the Green Bay Phoenix picked up a big conference win with a narrow 59-56 victory over Cleveland State on Friday evening at the Kress Events Center.
Monke finished the game with a career-high 17 points and seven rebounds and senior Breannah Ranger (Skokie, Ill.) added 13 as the duo combined for 30 of Green Bay’s points, with 28 of those coming in the paint. All told, the Phoenix received 44 of its 59 points on the night in the paint, tying a season-high that had already been achieved three times this season.
The win kept the Phoenix in sole possession of first place with a record of 9-2 in the Horizon League and 16-7 overall. Cleveland State dropped to 13-12 overall and 8-4 in the conference.
Cleveland State scored the first points of the game, but Monke started a 12-4 run for the Phoenix as the team went up 12-6 just over five minutes into the contest. Finding a home in the lane, Monke scored the first six points for the Phoenix to give the team a lead it would not relinquish. Classmate Mehryn Kraker (West Allis, Wis.) and sophomore Ellen Edison (Maple Grove, Minn.) also scored during the run.
The Vikings pulled to within two points with 13:12 on the clock (12-10), but a quick 5-0 spurt over the next four minutes for Green Bay that featured layups by Edison and Monke and a Ranger free throw gave the home team its largest lead of the half (17-10).
Green Bay maintained its seven-point advantage until the 3:00 mark (27-20) before Cleveland State pulled to within three points, 30-27, at the break. The Phoenix attacked the paint in the opening stanza, receiving 24 of its 30 points in the lane. However, Cleveland State was able to grab 11 offensive rebounds, resulting in 10 second chance points for the visitors.
It was a tense second half, featuring one tie and two lead changes in the early going. Cleveland State led as late as 14:48 in the contest (39-40), but a big layup by Ranger with 14:05 on the clock put the Phoenix up for good. Continuing to lead by one with just under 13 minutes remaining (43-42), a quick 6-0 scoring spurt over four minutes by Green Bay gave the Phoenix a little cushion as it extended its lead to seven points (49-42). Ranger, Kraker and Monke all scored during the run.
Green Bay led by as many as eight points down the stretch, but Cleveland State mounted a late rally in the final 1:36 to keep the Phoenix fans on the edge of their seats. With Green Bay up, 58-52 Haley Schmitt hit a layup and GB junior Megan Lukan (Barrie, Ontario) fouled Kiersten Green, sending her to the line where she hit both free throws to pull the Vikings to within two points (58-56) with just over a minute remaining.
The Phoenix missed on its next two shots, but Megan Lukan and Kraker came up with big offensive rebounds to keep the ball in Green Bay’s possession. Inbounding after a Cleveland State foul, Megan Lukan was fouled by Green. Lukan hit the first but her second bounced out of the rim and into the hands of Cleveland State’s Schmitt with seven seconds remaining. The Vikings hurried the ball down the court and Green put up a long-range attempt from in front of the Cleveland State bench but it clanked off the rim as the Phoenix held on for the final 59-56 margin.
Monke (17) and Ranger (13) led the Phoenix in scoring, while Monke and Megan Lukan had a team-best seven rebounds. Lukan also posted a game-high seven assists while not committing a turnover. Green Bay finished shooting 46.4 percent from the field (26-56) but was just 44.4 percent from the free throw line (4-9) and 17.6 percent (3-17) from deep.
The Green Bay defense limited the best shooting team in the conference to 22.6 percent (7-31) shooting from three and 37.3 percent (22-59) from the field. Cleveland State controlled the boards, 39-32, and also had an 18-8 advantage in second chance points. Cori Coleman led the team with 17 points while also becoming the 24th player in program history to reach 1,000 career points. Green added 14 points, while Gordon had a game-high 10 rebounds.
The Phoenix return to action on Sunday, hosting Youngstown State at 1 p.m. for its annual PinkZone contest.
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