NMU women’s hoops: Wildcats advance to GLIAC Championships with win over Michigan Tech

DETROIT – Coming off the bench to play the final three minutes and 50 seconds of a GLIAC women’s basketball tournament semifinal with four fouls to her name, Northern Michigan University’s Abbey DeBruin had to err on the side of caution unless she wanted to watch the rest of the game from the sidelines.

DeBruin did so, at least until the final six seconds.

The Wildcats’ 6-foot junior forward got aggressive with the ball in the hands of Michigan Tech junior forward Jillian Ritchie beyond the arc, leaping to block the game-tying 3-point attempt.

All DeBruin got was ball and the Wildcats went on to win 59-54 over the Huskies on Saturday on the campus of Wayne State in Detroit to return to the GLIAC Championship game for the first time since 2010 when it lost to Tech in Houghton.

Today, the second-seeded Wildcats will face fifth-seeded Malone at 2 p.m. at WSU’s Mattaei Center with the winner securing an automatic berth to the NCAA tournament.

Malone, which lost 77-68 to NMU in Marquette in the only meeting between the two schools this season, upset the top-seeded Warriors in the first semifinal on Saturday, 61-53.

DeBruin finished with just six points for Northern after leaving the game originally with 7:22 left in regulation with four fouls. Defensively, she had three rebounds, three steals and the one block of Ritchie with six seconds to go that gave NMU the win.

NMU senior forward Annie Rubendunst, who had two fouls in the first half but avoided the referees’ whistles in the second, led the Wildcats with 14 points on 6 of 12 shooting from the field.

Wildcats junior guard Alyssa Colla had 12 points on just a 3-of-11 shooting day from the field – she was 0-for-3 from beyond the arc. She also managed seven rebounds, three assists and a pair of steals.

Freshman guard Bre Gaspervich came off the Northern bench to play 22 minutes. She scored 12 points on 3-of-8 shooting from the field and a 4-for-5 day from the free throw line.

Gaspervich gave the Wildcats a 55-54 lead with 1:02 to play on a layup, then hit both ends of a one-and-one with 16 seconds left to force Tech to take a 3-pointer in the closing seconds to potentially force overtime.

The Huskies led twice in the game – for 31 seconds in the opening minute up 1-0 and in the final minute-plus for 12 seconds, up 54-53.

The Wildcats led by as many as 14 points in the first half, but a 10-0 run by the Huskies late chopped that margin to four. A jumper and free throw on a three-point play by Colla made it 32-25 Northern at the break.

The Huskies launched a pair of quick runs in the second half to prevent Northern from running away with the win.

Down 12 with 13:00 to go in regulation, Tech put together a 7-0 run over 68 seconds that cut NMU’s margin to five points. The Wildcats responded, though, with a 3-pointer by junior forward Lauren Gruber as the shot clock expired, followed by a layup from Rubendunst with 8:41 to play.

Northern still led by 10 points following a pair of free throws from Colla with 5:50 to go, but that’s when Tech launched a second 7-0 run that spanned 1:13 to get within three.

Huskies freshman guard Morgan Anderson, who came off the bench, nailed her third triple of the game and half with 2:42 to go to bring Tech back within three.

A travel by Northern with 2:07 left and a layup by MTU senior guard Paige Albi with 1:48 on the clock made it a one-point semifinal. After another NMU turnover out of bounds, Tech sophomore guard Danielle Blake snuck in for a layup with 1:14 remaining to give the Huskies a short-lived lead.

The Huskies had one last chance to move ahead with 44 seconds left on a layup by Albi, but the ball didn’t fall and Gruber nabbed the rebound that led to Gaspervich’s free throws.

It was Gruber’s game-high eighth defensive rebound of the afternoon and game-high ninth board overall.

Blake led the Huskies with 14 points. Her and Ritchie shared the team-high of eight rebounds. The only other Husky in double figures was Anderson, who totaled 11.

Saturday was the third meeting this season between Tech and Northern, with each team winning on its home floor during the regular season.

The Huskies were the last team to beat Northern on Feb. 3 in Houghton. Since then, the Wildcats have rattled off nine straight wins, with a 10th today locking up a spot in the NCAA tournament.