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A single quarter dooms shorthanded Northern Michigan University women

Northern Michigan University’s Makalee Kuhn dribbles during the Wildcat’s game against Grand Valley State played at the Berry Events Center on Thursday. (Journal photo by Corey Kelly)

MARQUETTE — Things definitely aren’t going well for the Northern Michigan University women’s basketball team, especially when it comes to health.

The Wildcats have been hit hard with injuries the past few weeks, and to make matters worse, No. 6 Grand Valley State rolled into town Thursday night.

Despite some key players seeing only limited action, NMU put up a strong fight against GVSU and kept up with the Lakers through the first quarter.

But a bad second quarter — a 20-2 advantage for the visitors — turned out all GVSU would need to earn a 53-38 defeat.

Makaylee Kuhn led Northern (12-14, 9-9 GLIAC) with 12 points.

“We fought hard for three quarters,” NMU head coach Troy Mattson said. “We beat them in the first quarter and we tied them in the third and the fourth quarter.

“We played great defense all night long. We worked hard at it. We limited them to, other than the second quarter, one shot (per possession).

“The second quarter kind of got away from us, but we were playing a great team and those things are gonna happen. I was really impressed. Without playing Liz (Lutz) and Jess (Schultz) and Lexi (Smith), that’s three starters for us, and we sat in there and fought toe to toe with them for three out of the four quarters. I was impressed.”

The game started well for the Wildcats. A layup from Ishpeming alum Madigan Johns tied the game 6-6 and was followed by a triple from Schultz, who saw limited action. After a layup from GVSU’s Victoria Hedemark, former Marquette Redette Amber Huebner dropped in a layup to make it 11-8 in favor of Northern. The Wildcats led 13-10 going into the second quarter.

Then it was all Lakers (24-2, 16-2) for the remainder of the first half. Including a bucket scored just before the end of the first quarter, Grand Valley reeled off 18 straight points at the start of the second. The surge was highlighted by treys from Maddie Dailey and Hedemark as the Lakers led 26-13 with 2:53 remaining before halftime.

Huebner stopped the run with a jumper, but that’s the only points the Wildcats managed in the quarter as they trailed 30-15 at the half.

In the third quarter, a layup by Hedemark pushed GVSU’s advantage to 17 at 34-17 with 7:10 left and a 3-pointer from Dailey got it up to 19 at 40-21 with 4:04 left.

Northern got the deficit down to 15 on a triple from Kuhn with five seconds remaining to trail 44-29 going into the fourth.

The Wildcats cut the Lakers’ lead to 13 three times in the fourth, the second time on a Johns putback with 5:57 remaining to make it 46-33. With 3:21 left, Northern whittled its deficit to 12 on a layup from Huebner at 47-35, but that’s the closest it got.

It may have come in a loss, but Johns was happy to finally get some significant playing time this season.

“It was very exciting,” she said. “I’ve been waiting awhile to get my turn, but overall, it was a great experience for sure.”

NMU is still in good shape to make the GLIAC Tournament, but its chances of hosting a first-round playoff game are slipping away as the Wildcats are two games behind Wisconsin-Parkside for the fourth and final home quarterfinal spot and have only two games left to play.

To get a win over Davenport on Saturday, Mattson says that the Wildcats’ depth needs to return, but he’s proud how his team continues to fight through all its adversity.

“We need to get Erin (Honkala) and Liz in there,” he said. “They’re going to play, and hopefully they don’t get lame right away. We need that depth and other than the first half at Lake Superior, I’ve been proud of this team and the effort that we put in and how hard we play.

“We’re learning on the run here and we’ve battled a lot this season. We’re fighting. We’re really fighting and we’re doing what we can. It’s hard for us to score points right now, but hopefully, we can get enough on Saturday to get a win.”

Ryan Stieg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is rstieg@miningjournal.net.