By Rachel Buck (@GBRachel)
MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. (GreenBayPhoenix.com) – Leading by five points with just over 50 seconds remaining, the Green Bay women’s basketball team saw its lead slip through its fingers as Minnesota’s Rachel Banham hit two big threes in the closing seconds to help the Gophers escape with a 62-60 win in the opening round of the WNIT on Wednesday evening at Williams Arena.
With the loss Green Bay ended its season at 22-10 overall, concluding a campaign where it picked up its 16th-consecutive Horizon League regular season championship and 15th-consecutive 20+ win season.
Freshman Tesha Buck (Red Wing, Minn.) finished with a team-high 18 points, while sophomore Kaili Lukan (Barrie, Ontario) chipped in 15 and freshman Sam Terry (Baraboo, Wis.) 10 points.
With the Phoenix leading 33-23 at halftime, Minnesota (21-12) opened the second stanza with a big 11-0 run to take back the lead, 34-33 just over four minutes in. A quick 7-3 response run by Green Bay put the Phoenix back in front by five points (42-37) at the 11:11 mark.
Minnesota then went on a 7-1 run of its own to take a one point lead (44-43) with 7:14 remaining, but Green Bay again grabbed control and went up by six points (57-51) with a 14-7 run that ended with just over two minutes remaining.
The Phoenix held on to a five-point lead with 51 seconds on the clock, but Minnesota junior Rachel Banham came up big in the final seconds, hitting two big threes to help guide the Gophers to the win. She hit her first with 45 seconds on the clock, and after senior Breannah Ranger (Skokie, Ill.) missed a shot in the lane, Banham hit her second with 11 seconds on the clock to put Minnesota ahead, 61-60.
Terry had a chance to put the Phoenix ahead with a corner three with seven seconds remaining, but her attempt was blocked and UM’s Kayla Hirt was fouled on the rebound, sending her to the free throw line where she made the front end for the final 62-60 score.
It was a back-and-forth battle through the opening minutes until the Phoenix, behind a 3-pointer by Terry at the 15:09 mark, went on a 14-4 run over the next six minutes to take a 21-13 lead. Ranger had the next bucket before Terry hit another three and Buck drained back-to-back threes to close the run.
The Gophers cut into the lead, closing within five after a Rachel Banham triple made it 23-18, but it was as close as the Gophers could get in the first half. Minnesota, after Banham’s jumper on an assist from Noga made it 29-23, was held scoreless for the final two and a half minutes and the Phoenix added one more basket, setting the halftime score of 33-23.
Green Bay finished the game shooting 34.5 percent (20-58) from the field, cooling off after shooting 40.7 percent (11-27) in the first half to just 29.0 percent (9-31) in the second stanza. Junior Megan Lukan (Barrie, Ontario) had a team-high six rebounds, while the Lukan sisters and freshman Mehryn Kraker (West Allis, Wis.) had a game-high three steals. The Phoenix was out-rebounded, 42-31.
Banham led the Gophers with 31 points, while Amanda Zahui B. had 17 points and a game-high 14 rebounds.
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