Wright State rallied, dominated then held on for a victory in the Horizon League women’s basketball tournament championship Tuesday afternoon.
The reward for the Raiders’ 55-52 win over Green Bay: Another trophy for the case, and a trip to the NCAA tournament.
Wright State won the Horizon League women’s tournament for the second time in program history.
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The other was five years ago when they downed the Phoenix in Green Bay to earn the only other NCAA tournament bid in school history.
Wright State head coach Katrina Merriweather was an assistant for the Raiders then, so she had seen up close what it takes to get to the top.
“We talk about it being a 40-minute game and a 40-minute game plan and you’ve gotta grind it out,” Merriweather said. “You’ve gotta defend. You’ve gotta rebound. And when the shots fall of course it’s much easier, but all we want to do is be the tougher team for 40 minutes, and we did that.”
After top-seeded WSU fell into an early hole, Symone Simmons hit a 3-pointer at 8:21 of the second quarter to put the Raiders on top 12-11.
That was part of a 15-0 run that covered nearly eight minutes and left regular season champion Wright State on top 20-11.
The 16-time tournament champion Phoenix pulled to within five, but Wright State (27-6) scored seven of the last nine points in the half to take a 27-16 lead into the locker room at Little Caesar’s Arena.
No. 2 seed Green Bay (22-9) outscored Wright State 20-10 in the third quarter and grabbed a one-point lead twice in the second half, first on a Hailey Oskey 3-pointer late in the third and again on a Carley Mohns jumper early in the fourth.
Emily Vogelpohl answered for the Raiders the first time with a short jumper, and Michal Miller put Wright State back on top with a layup at the 9:08 mark of the fourth.
The Raiders led by as many as nine in the fourth quarter, but Green Bay chipped away and tied the game at 49 on a Laken James basket with 1:32 to go.
Voelpohl again had the answer for the Raiders, hitting a jumper in the lane with 1:06 left to put Wright State back on top for good.
The Phoenix went to Mohns inside on their next possession, but her shot was stuffed by Tyler Frierson, who also came up with the ball.
Forced to foul, Green Bay sent Vogelpohl to the free-throw line, and she made a pair to put Wright State up 53-49 with 21.8 seconds left.
The Phoenix got James wide open off a set play inbounding the ball at the other end, and she connected from beyond the arc to make it a one-point game with 18.1 seconds left.
After Miller made one of two free throws for Wright State, Mohns again got open off an inbound play, but this time she missed.
Vogelpohl came out with the rebound and was fouled. She made one of two from the charity stripe, then Green Bay was unable to score.
“I wanted the ball, but I wanted to win more than anything,” Vogelpohl said of being in the middle of some of the game’s crucial play for a second day in a row. “The ball was in my hands and I made a few shots thanks to my teammates, but all I wanted to do was win, and that’s what we did.”
Vogelpohl scored eight points in the fourth quarter and finished with 14 for the game to lead all scorers.
She made the all-tournament team along with teammates Mackenzie Taylor and Miller, who scored 13 points in the championship game and was named the tournament MVP.
“I always believed (we could win this),” Miller said. “I’m a big believer in faith and I trust in God. I want to thank God for everything. This is where He led us, and this is why we’re celebrating.”