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Green Bay pushes past Valpo

Alec Dopp, Sports Writer
March 27, 2013
Filed under Sports

In her fourth and final season with the No. 20/20 Green Bay Phoenix women’s basketball team, senior guard Adrian Ritchie is leaving nothing to chance.

Ritchie, All-Horizon League First Team and All-Defensive Team selection for the 2012-13 season, proved her worth to 1,970 fans at the Kress Events Center March 13. Ritchie scored a career-high 27 points against Valparaiso in the quarterfinal round of the Horizon League Tournament.

Her prolific shooting helped push the Phoenix past the Crusaders 80-59, setting up a matchup against Detroit March 15.

“It’s just sort of what they gave us and what we were running,” Ritchie said. She also grabbed four rebounds and dished out an assist in the March 13 contest. “We talk about one more pass. One more. One more.  I was the one who had the shot.”

Ritchie’s historic point collection was a result of a 7-of-14 shooting from beyond the three-point arc, tying a tournament record for most three-point shots made. The De Pere native led all scorers with nine field goals and shot 52.9 percent from the field collectively.

Senior forward Sarah Eichler dished out a career-high 11 assists along with nine points and four rebounds.

In the eyes of Phoenix head coach Kevin Borseth, coincidence played no role in Eichler’s efficient passing.

“When they sat in the zone they were in, we put ourselves in a shape where we were wide-open,” Borseth said. “Sarah knows how to find them. She sees people extremely well and just picks them apart.”

Eichler, the team’s second leading scorer coming into the game, spoke to the uniqueness of being a passer rather than a scorer.

“That’s something that’s cool for me,” Eichler said. “It’s nice to score points, but if you’re not scoring points that night, to have assists like that is really special for me. You don’t get the assist unless the person you pass it to makes the basket, so it’s a credit to the people who are making the points, too. I don’t get stats like that without people knocking down shots.”

As a team, Green Bay shot 48.3 percent, 28-of-58, from the field, including 13-of-34 from three-point land.

Physical inside play from redshirt senior forward Stephanie Sension, who had nine points, seven rebounds and four assists, helped the Phoenix outscore the Crusaders 26-18 in the painted area.

Green Bay’s prowess from beyond the arc was revealed in the form of a 9-0 lead three minutes into the game thanks to three-pointers from Ritchie, Lydia Bauer and Eichler.

Valparaiso would cut the lead to four, 15-11, at the 12:50 remaining mark in the first half. But a fast break, crowd-stimulating reverse layup from Ritchie, put the Phoenix up by 10 with about eight minutes remaining.

Green Bay shot 57.7 percent from the floor in the first half and consequently held on to a 37-22 lead at intermission.

The beginning of the second half revealed resiliency on the Crusaders’ part, however.

With the help of tough defense and converting on its free-throw opportunities, Valparaiso came within 11 points, 45-34, of Green Bay at the 14:08 mark. Tremendous play from Valpo forward Tabitha Gerardot didn’t help Green Bay’s cause.

But the Phoenix hit its stride as the second half progressed.

Sparked by another three-pointer from Richie with 7:44 remaining, the Phoenix extended its lead to 58-41. Ritchie then promptly sunk two more three-pointers, putting Green Bay up 66-47 with 5:19 on the clock before pulling away for good.

As regular-season Horizon League champion in each of the past seven years, the Phoenix understands the significance of having home-court advantage this time of year.

“It’s definitely something we don’t take for granted,” Ritchie said. “We think it’s a special thing to work hard the entire season to earn this. To be here in Green Bay in front of our fans is a lot of fun.”