The Lake Michigan College Women's Basketball Team defeated Muskegon Community College 61-52 on Wednesday night to become the 2018-19 Michigan Community College Athletic Association (MCCAA) Western Conference Champions. This is the Lady Red Hawks first outright MCCAA Western Conference title since the 1996-97 season. Lake Michigan last won the championship in the 2013-14 season when they shared it with Kalamazoo Valley Community College.
Both teams entered the game ranked in the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Division II National Poll with Muskegon coming in ranked #11 and Lake Michigan ranked #20. Heading into the game with an identical 15-2 MCCAA record, both teams did not disappoint the packed gym who came out to see these two top teams play. From the tip-off, both teams traded baskets and neither could gain a significant edge. The Lady Red Hawks did take an early four-point lead, but Muskegon battled back and after the first 10 minutes, the Lady Jayhawks led 16-11.
In the second quarter, Muskegon pushed their lead out to eight points (21-13) with 6:30 remaining before halftime. This lead was mainly due to the poor shooting by Lake Michigan, who really struggled from the field in the first half. The Lady Red Hawks did battle back thanks to great defensive pressure and forcing Muskegon to turn the ball over. Lake Michigan went on a 9-0 run to outscore the Lady Jayhawks 11-5 in the second quarter and held a one-point lead (22-21) at halftime. In the first half, the Lady Red Hawks shot just 17% (7-40) while Muskegon made 39% of their shots (9-23).
Early in the third quarter, Lake Michigan went on 12-4 run to extend their lead to nine points (34-25). However, Muskegon would not go away and went on their own 9-5 run to end the quarter. The Lady Red Hawks were able to outscore Muskegon 17-13 and entered the final quarter with a 39-34 lead.
At the start of the fourth quarter, Muskegon forced Lake Michigan to turn the ball over four consecutive times and the Lady Jayhawks went on an 8-0 run to take back the lead at 43-39. On the Lake Michigan's next two offensive possessions, they hit a three-point shot and another jumper to retake the lead 44-43 with six minutes remaining in the game. Over the next 2:30 minutes both teams struggled to score, but another basket by the Lady Red Hawks extended their lead to three points (46-43). Lake Michigan then got several offensive rebounds on their missed shots and when fouled hit two free throws to extend their lead to five points (48-43) with less than three minutes to play in the game. Muskegon would not go away and hit a jump shot to again make it just a three-point lead (48-45) for Lake Michigan with less than two minutes to go. Both teams traded baskets and Lake Michigan held a three-point lead (50-47) when 1:15 to play, when Breanna Alexander hit a three-point shot to push the Lady Red Hawks lead to 53-47. Down the stretch, Lake Michigan went a perfect 8-8 from the free throw line and held on for the final 61-52 win and the MCCAA Western Conference Championship. This game capped off a perfect 14-0 home record for Lake Michigan. Overall, the Lady Red Hawks have a 24-5 record and finish with a 16-2 MCCAA Western Conference record.
After the game, Head Coach, Patrick Daniel stated "So proud of this team accomplishing our goal of winning this conference championship. There is no place like home and playing this type of game in front of a pack gym was key to us getting this win against a very good Muskegon team. I am so blessed and thankful for these wonderful young ladies who worked hard all year to earn this."
For the game, Lake Michigan shot just 25% (18-71), while Muskegon shot 39% (20-51). The Lady Red Hawks did outrebound Muskegon 53-41, including 27 offensive rebounds. Lake Michigan also shot 20-28 from the free throw line (71%) and as a team had 15 steals, 14 assists, seven blocks, and committed only 13 turnovers. The Lady Red Hawks forced Muskegon to commit 23 turnovers.
Two players scored in double figures for the Lady Red Hawks led by Jayla Bibbs with 16 points and Samantha Jenkins added 12 points. Taylor Cegelis had 14 rebounds and Bibbs pulled down 13 rebounds. Bibbs also led the Lady Red Hawks with six assists and four blocks. Cegelis blocked three shots and Breanna Alexander had five steals.
Lake Michigan will now head to Mott Community College on Saturday, March 2 to play for the MCCAA State Championship. Mott is the MCAA Eastern Conference Champion and defeated the Lady Red Hawks earlier in the season on November 9, 2019 in overtime (85-83). This game will tip-off at 3:00 pm.