In a meeting of the nation's top defense, offense, Grand Valley State women fall in DII Final Four

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

The Lakers' ship finally sprung a leak.

The Grand Valley State women's basketball team led at halftime thanks to its trademark defense but struggled after the break and lost to Glenville State of West Virginia, 77-53, in the Division II NCAA Tournament's Final Four on Wednesday night at Bill Harris Arena in Birmingham, Alabama.

The Lakers (31-3) fell two wins shy of the program's second national championship, and the second in Michigan women's basketball this year, after Hope won the Division III title last week.

Grand Valley State freshman guard Ellie Droste scored 14 in Wednesday's Final Four game.

Wednesday's semifinal showdown featured the nation's top defense in Grand Valley State and the nation's top offensive in Glenville State, and for two quarters, defense won out, the Lakers up, 29-27.

"I thought we were disciplined in that first half, really disciplined," Grand Valley State head coach Mike Williams said on the school's postgame radio show, moments after the final buzzer. 

"When things went south, we just caved in. Maybe that's youth, maybe that's not being mentally tough, maybe that's not being battle-tested all year.

"Glenville State's a great team."

Glenville State (34-1), which averaged 96 points a game coming into the semifinal but shot just 31.5% in the first half, caught fire during the second half. Grand Valley State got within five points early in the fourth quarter, but Glenville State used a 13-0 run to pull away.

Glenville State still hasn't scored fewer than 75 points in a game this season.

Glenville State will play in Friday's championship game, against North Georgia or Western Washington, playing in Wednesday's later Final Four game.

Freshman guard Ellie Droste (Pewamo-Westphalia) scored 14 before fouling out to lead the Lakers, while  junior guard Emily Spitzley (Pewamo-Westphalia) scored 13 and junior forward Hanna Kulas added nine points and six rebounds.

Sophomore forward Courtney Sharland (Grand Ledge) had nine rebounds and two blocks, and freshman guard Hadley Miller had seven rebounds and steals.

The Lakers shot just 38% for the game (22-for-58), and were way off on 3-pointers (1-for-13, 7.7%) and free throws (8-for-18, 44.4%).

For Glenville State, four players scored in double figures, led by guard Re'Shawna Stone's 19. Guard Dazha Congleton had 10 points and 11 rebounds.

Meanwhile, the future would appear promising for Grand Valley State, which graduates just two seniors off this roster. But, Williams said, nothing's guaranteed.

"The future might be bright, everybody talks about that," Williams said. "But there's no givens in this game, baby. You better want to put the time in. ... We kind of found out what level you've gotta play at, at this level. We learned that we can play teams that are on our level, and we're pretty good. Now, do we want to get to this next level? That's a decision these ladies have gotta make."

Grand Valley State won its lone national championship in women's basketball in 2006, and was looking to give the state of Michigan its 11th in basketball, men or women, Division I, II or III.

This was the Lakers' third Final Four.

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tpaul@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tonypaul1984