MARQUETTE - The Northern Michigan University women's basketball team did its part this weekend as it attempts to get back into the race for a GLIAC playoff spot.
Now, the Wildcat women will look for a little help from the rest of the league following their first home weekend sweep of the season via a 79-76 win over Findlay on Saturday afternoon.
The Wildcats (10-11 overall, 6-8 GLIAC) moved into a tie for third place with Grand Valley State in the North Division, two days after snapping a four-game losing streak with a 70-69 win over Wayne State at the Berry Events Center.
Northern Michigan University freshman Alyssa Colla brings the ball down the floor against Findlay junior Kendra Elam on Saturday at the Berry Events Center in Marquette. (Journal photo by Matt Wellens)
"It was a good weekend for us," NMU senior Chelsea Lyons said. "We needed it. It put us back in the race. We just have to hope some other teams don't do as well and we have to keep playing well."
Lyons led the Wildcats in scoring for the seventh straight game, posting 28 points on 11-of-15 shooting from the field and 6-of-10 from the free throw line.
Averaging 22 points a game during the 'Cats' last seven outings, Lyons has been a force on the floor, NMU head coach Troy Mattson said.
"Chelsea has just been a beast down there," Mattson said. "She is just taking over games. We just keep giving her the ball and letting her make plays and people just need to make shots for her.
"When she can't get to the layup, she'll kick it out and we have to make shots for her."
Like Thursday's win, Lyons received some much-needed support from a freshman teammate.
Against Wayne State, center Courtney Lemon stepped up with a career-high 20 points and 10 rebounds, but on Saturday, its was Alyssa Colla of Muskego, Wis., posting a career-high 24 points.
Colla made 8 of 12 from the field, 3 of 8 from 3-point territory and 5 of 8 from the free-throw line.
Colla credited Lyons for opening things up on the outside for her and their teammates, including freshman Lauren Gruber, who had a pair of critical 3s.
"Chelsea was working the middle and we got our points," Colla said. "Whenever any of us penetrate, the outside is going to be open. Mainly when she penetrates, there are going to be open people all over."
Senior Hillary Bowling also finished with 12 points and a team-high nine rebounds with seven coming on the defensive boards. Bowling was 7 of 10 at the free-throw line.
Bowling was on the floor for 33 minutes while Lyons and Colla were the lone Wildcats to play the full 40 minutes.
While Bowling controlled the boards, Colla's outside presence complemented Lyons' inside game on the offensive end against a foreign Findlay defense that forced NMU to improvise from start to finish.
According to Mattson and his players, the 'Cats didn't run a set play the entire game.
"Findlay is a very unconventional team," Lyons said. "They were playing a run-and-jump matchup 3-2 (zone) and sometimes went into a man. It was hard to run any plays against it because they switch it.
"They had that press, too, that was pretty difficult. We didn't know if they would trap or just play us full-court man. We had to do some improvising out there and I think we handled it pretty well."
The Oilers and Wildcats played a tight game from start to finish with the Oilers leading by as many as six points with 9:27 to play, 58-52, and Northern holding a five-point lead with nine seconds to go.
Findlay hit a 3 with two seconds left, but its game-tying buzzer-beater fell short after Colla hit the first and missed the second of two free throws.
Northern remains home to host Lake Superior State at 5:30 p.m. Thursday in its lone game this week.
The Wildcats complete the regular season with a road trip to Lake Erie and Ashland next week before hosting Northwood and Saginaw Valley State in Marquette on Feb. 23 and 25.
"I like that we're at home because we seem to have a flow going," Lyons said.
Matt Wellens can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org