Falcon women fall in MAC championship game

Andrew Harner and Andrew Harner

CLEVELAND – While round two of Ball State vs. BG in the Mid-American Conference championship game had to wait two years, the Cardinals made sure to take full advantage of the opportunity beating BG 55-51 after losing 67-53 two seasons ago. For the Falcons, the end result was very unexpected and reminiscent of BG’s 68-66 double-overtime conference semifinal loss to Ohio last season. Tournament MVP Tracy Pontius said the pain from last season’s loss was still there and being upset once again made it that much worse. ‘Last year still stings, and then losing this just made it worse I guess,’ an emotional Pontius said before tears took over. The Falcons came out strong, opening the game 6-of-12 shooting and leading 31-26 at halftime, despite shooting just 33.3 percent from the field. However, once the second half started, the real trouble began for the Falcons. Ball State opened the half on a 10-2 run that lasted exactly 11 minutes before it was broken by Pontius’ 11th three-pointer of the Tournament, which is a new record. Just over a minute later, Chelsea Albert’s three-point play gave BG their lead back, but the Cardinals had plenty of fight left’ in them after that setback. ‘You felt like every possession could be the difference,’ BG coach Curt Miller said. And that was truly the case. Never letting the Falcons get a lead of more than two from that point on, Ball State traded points with BG until the last 26 seconds when their senior, Prochia Green, had the two possessions that made the difference, scoring four points in 24 seconds. In the end, the Falcons had shot just 28.3 percent from the field, included 22.2 percent in the second half. But, their defense limited Ball State to a 38.8 percent shooting mark and the Falcons outrebounded the Cardinals 40-34, both which are generally enough for a victory. Because of that, Miller was still pleased that his team was able play strong on one end of the floor. ‘We preached down the stretch of the season that defense and rebounding was going to win a championship for us,’ Miller said. ‘It’s heartbreaking, but that’s the beauty of MAC basketball.’ Another area of weakness for BG was the play of two of its best players ‘- MAC Player of the Year Lauren Prochaska and co-captain Tara Breske. Prochaska, who has struggled all Tournament, was just 3-of-16 shooting for seven points. For the Tournament, Prochaska only made 7-of-35 shots. Prior to today, Breske had been the exact opposite, making 9-of-14 shots in the past two games, but a 2-of-8 shooting day, including four straight misses in the second half, didn’t help BG’s cause. ‘The player of the year in the conference lost her confidence,’ Miller said. ‘Our center and captain lost her confidence.’ The lone bright spot for the Falcons in the title game was the play of Niki McCoy, who scored 15 points and was named to the All-Tournament Team. However, she wasn’t completely satisfied with her performance given the end result. ‘I can pretty much remember every shot I missed today,’ McCoy said. Emily Maggert (14 points) and Danielle Gratton (12 rebounds) led the way for the Cardinals. And their leadership has helped create something special for BSU coach Kelly Packard. ‘The basketball has been special, but the something very special has been these young ladies,’ Packard said. For the Falcons, the next step is likely a WNIT game as their numbers probably won’t be good enough for the NCAA selection committee to invite them to the NCAA Tournament. Last season, BG hosted a first round WNIT game which saw BG defeat Dayton 64-52.