Huskies one win from GLIAC women’s title

HOUGHTON – Twenty-five games, 21 weeks of practice, playing around injuries, through pain, sickness and 16-hour bus trips.

It has all led to this.

The Michigan Tech women’s basketball team visits Northern Michigan today with a GLIAC Championship on the line.

Thanks to three straight losses by Wayne State, the Huskies sit tied with the Warriors at 16-5 in GLIAC play. Northern trails by one game, with a 15-6 mark.

If Tech wins, another banner goes on the wall. A loss, and the Huskies not only miss out on a second consecutive North Division title, but the bubble will come close to bursting for the NCAA Tournament, where Tech’s regional ranking currently sits at No. 8.

Still, coach Kim Cameron and her team are positively bubbling with excitement. This is why you play college basketball.

“It’s a big game and I could go through a list about why it’s important – and that’s exciting,” Cameron said. “You can’t ask for anything more than that. It’s a conference championship, and it’s intense. It’s awesome.

“They know the stakes. It’s going to be a fight and it’s going to be a battle. We aren’t hiding from that. All we are doing is challenging them to fight, challenging them to get their goal.”

“We have been working all season to get to games like this,” Tech sophomore MacKenzie Perttu added.

Before the celebration can begin though, the formidable challenge the Wildcats present must be met.

Tech defeated Northern 71-65 in Houghton at the beginning of February, getting 30 points from Perttu and 21 from Dani Blake as that contest marked the first game in a string sophomore Kylie Moxley has missed with a back injury.

Moxley has missed seven games since then, with Tech going a middling 4-3 in that stretch, including three losses in their last five.

To put that banner on the wall, the Huskies will need Perttu and Blake – both of whom can occasionally fade away from the offense for stretches – to be as assertive as they were in the first win over Northern.

“We have our girls that are clearly our scorers. It is just finding a way to bring it all together,” Cameron said. “They have to be finding a way to put pressure on Northern’s defense.”

Blake and Perttu found a lot of success attacking off the bounce last time, with Perttu sinking a school record 16-of-18 free throws.

She wants more of the same at the Berry Events Center tonight.

“We want to throw the first punch,” Perttu said.

“We want to go at everyone. Go at their guards, go at their post players, try to force them into fouls.”

The Wildcats have been in top form since that loss in Houghton, winning six straight, including double-digit wins over Wayne and Northwood, two teams to top Tech.

Northern currently sits at No. 6 in the NCAA Regional Rankings, on the inside track for its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2010.

“It is going to be a battle every possession because every possession is worth something,” Cameron said. “Every shot is earned, every stop is earned. Both teams are going at it with everything they got.”

The Huskies succeeded last time when Blake switched on to Wildcats leading scorer Alyssa Colla.

The Northern junior started the game with 15 points on 7-of-11 shooting sans Blake, but slipped dramatically to 2-of-11 with four turnovers as the 6-foot guard smothered the Wildcat slasher.

Blake will start the game on Colla this time around.

“Her length is huge,” Cameron said. “Colla is such a great scorer who uses her body to create space, but Dani can really negate that with her length.”