Over the course of the first three quarters, the Wisconsin GLO made a total of two 3-pointers.
They also missed 20.
Yet with the game approaching the final minutes and the GLO needing to find some scoring, the 3-point line was a bit more kind.
Kelly Moten started a strong fourth-quarter push by the GLO with one 3-pointer, while Hannah Whitish knocked down two treys in a span of about 80 seconds – the latter putting Wisconsin ahead for good with 3:15 remaining as Wisconsin rallied past the Detroit Queens, 81-71, in the team’s regular-season finale at Menominee Nation Arena on Sunday afternoon.
“To finish a game strong that didn’t go our way a lot shooting wise hopefully is the biggest confidence booster,” head coach Lauren Busalacchi said. “We can still be confident that we can win when we have three quarters where (we struggle). It was a big step, just to get some momentum going into next weekend.”
Although the regular season ended with the win over Detroit, the GLO will travel to St. Louis for the GWBA Tournament, starting with a semifinal matchup on Saturday against the Flint Monarchs. The winner of that game will play for the title on Sunday.
“To get this win going into next weekend is big,” Whitish said. “Saturday will be a big game. We’re excited for it.”
Wisconsin (9-2) enters the tournament on a three-game winning streak but the GLO needed a fourth-quarter rally to make sure that was the case. The Queens used a strong third quarter to build a 56-49 advantage and stayed in front for much of the final period.
Over the final four minutes, though, the GLO allowed Detroit just one basket – a breakaway layup by Leah Scott off a turnover – as they finished the game with a 16-2 run.
“When we’re not shooting well, we have to get stops,” Busalacchi said. “Just being active and being a little more aware and getting rebounds. Contesting shots and forcing them to put the ball on the floor a little bit more. We thought the team did a good job of that the last few minutes.”
Moten spearheaded the defensive effort by locking down on the Queens’ Micaela Kelly.
Kelly knocked down three 3-pointers and scored 11 of her game-high 20 points in the third quarter, but was held to just one free throw over the final 10 minutes and attempted only two shots in the final quarter with Moten handling the majority of the defensive assignment.
“Kelly is so capable of being incredibly physical on the ball. Her athleticism and her strength can be so frustrating for another guard to go against,” Busalacchi said. “She did a good job turning it up those last four minutes. That’s what we needed.”
Wisconsin had to find some offense, though, and through the first three quarters that was a struggle. The GLO shot just 39 percent from the floor in the first 30 minutes, including an icy 2-of-22 from behind the arc.
But suddenly, something clicked.
Moten’s 3-pointer followed by a Jessica Kelliher putback brought the GLO within two points before a three-point play by Julie Wojta trimmed the deficit to 61-60 with just more than six minutes remaining.
The teams exchanged baskets before a Detroit 3-pointer extended the Queens’ lead back to four. On the next GLO possession, Whitish – who had missed her first four 3-point attempts in the game – got an open look from behind the arc and knocked it down.
A couple of possessions later – and after a Mehryn Kraker basket – Whitish got open again and her corner 3-pointer with 3:15 remaining gave the GLO a 70-69 lead.
“That did feel really good. Seeing one go in definitely boosts your confidence a little bit. It was nice to see,” said Whitish, who finished with 16 points. “I feel like our whole team just flipped a switch and it was really good then going to the end.”
Both of Whitish’s 3-pointers were the result of some sharp ball movement by the GLO with Moten assisting on the first trey while Kraker set up the second.
“We haven’t been a real good 3-point shooting team this summer at all so to get a rhythm catch, off a one-more pass on the perimeter, that’s probably our best look,” Busalacchi said. “The more time we have to get our feet set and catch and kind of lock and load, the better we are.”
Jolene Anderson followed Whitish’s 3-pointer with a basket and Wojta – who scored 11 of her team-high 19 points in the fourth quarter – added another basket to extend the lead to 74-69.
“When we started to knock down those shots, our defense amped up that much more,” Whitish said. “We said at halftime, that our misses on the offensive end did not affect our defensive play.”
Wojta’s basket would be the last field goal of the game for Wisconsin, as the GLO scored their final seven points from the foul line, includinging hitting all six of their attempts in the final 22 seconds to seal the win.
Kelliher added 11 points, while Moten and Anderson each finished with nine. Anderson also grabbed a team-high 12 rebounds for Wisconsin, which outscored Detroit 32-15 in the fourth quarter.
“We were fortunate those last four minutes to play a lot better and in the fourth quarter overall I thought we played well,” Busalacchi said.
Scott added 17 points for the Queens, while Hailey Leidel finished with 11.