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Phoenix cruise past Crusaders

Marques Eversoll, Assistant Sports Editor
February 27, 2013
Filed under Sports, Top Stories

On Senior Day in front of a packed Kress Events Center, sophomore guard Megan Lukan stole the show, scoring a career-high 22 points to propel the Phoenix to an 80-38 win over Valparaiso, Feb. 23.

“I haven’t really been a three-point threat,” Lukan said. “It was nice to knock them down when they weren’t respecting me.”

Lukan connected on four of eight shots behind the arc. She also added four assists without turning the ball over.

“They didn’t guard her,” said head coach Kevin Borseth. “We use her in a combination of inside and outside, and she’s been working on her shot. That shows on the stat sheet.”

Green Bay improved its record to 22-2 on the season and 12-0 in conference play. Valparaiso fell to 9-16 on the year and 4-8 in the Horizon League.

The Crusaders struggled to get going offensively, as the Phoenix rushed out to a 39-13 lead at halftime. In the first half, Lukan, with 16 points, outscored the entire Valparaiso team, as the Crusaders shot 10.3 percent through the first 20 minutes.

The win clinched at least a share of the Horizon League title for the 15th consecutive season. Borseth cited recruiting as a key to the program’s success.

“It’s a matter of finding people that want to be here,” Borseth said. “I believe the players that came here over the course of that entire time wanted to be here.”

Senior guard Adrian Ritchie echoed the thoughts of her head coach.

“We get the girls who are in the gym the longest,” Ritchie said. “Scoring the most points isn’t important to them. It’s about working hard, enjoying your teammates and playing for the girl next to you.”

Senior forward Sarah Eichler scored 13 points, dished out four assists and added two rebounds on the afternoon. Eichler has been a starter for the Phoenix since her freshmen year, helping Green Bay to four straight conference championships.

“There’s a certain degree of pressure that comes with success,” Eichler said. “It’s just how you handle that kind of pressure. It was nothing overwhelming, I have four supporting seniors to lean on.”

Eichler and fellow senior Stephanie Sension found each other on several occasions for easy points. Sension scored eight points on 4-5 shooting and grabbed three rebounds.

Valparaiso fared better in the second half, rushing out to an 8-2 run thanks to five quick points from Shaquira Scott and a three-point shot by Charae Thompson. The Crusaders shot 34.8 percent in the second half but didn’t have a single player score in double figures. Scott led the team with nine points and seven rebounds.

The 42-point win was Green Bay’s second-largest margin of victory this season. The Phoenix defeated UIC 99-53 Feb. 3 at the Kress Center. Earlier this season Green Bay went to Valparaiso and defeated the Crusaders 78-55 Jan. 26.

“Anytime you get a lead, you tend to slow down a little bit,” Borseth said. “At their place, we threw the ball away a bunch of times and let them back into the game. That was a big focus for us here to take care of it and rebound.”

Junior forward Breannah Ranger recorded her second double-double of her career, racking up 11 points and ten rebounds. Her first double-double came Jan. 12 when she posted 12 points and 11 rebounds.

Valparaiso turned the ball over 18 times, while Green Bay had nine turnovers. The Phoenix assisted on 20 of its 30 field goals, whereas the Crusaders assisted on five of its 11 field goals.

Following the game, seniors Eichler, Ritchie, Sension, Jenny Gilbertson and Lydia Bauer addressed the crowd at the Kress Center. The seniors took the time to thank family, friends, coaches, teammates and fans before viewing a career tribute video.

Three of Green Bay’s final four regular season games will be played on the road. The Phoenix will play its next game in Detroit against the 14-10 Titans Feb. 28. The Horizon League tournament is scheduled to kick off March 13.