WISCONSIN GLO REPEAT AS CHAMPS; MOTEN GARNERS MVP
Two seasons. Two titles. The reign of the Wisconsin GLO continues.
Kelly Moten erupted for 30 points to earn MVP honors and the GLO put on a dominant display in the second half to pull away to a 93-77 win over the St. Louis Surge in the GWBA Championship Game played Sunday afternoon at Fontbonne University in St. Louis.
“It’s really cool,” said Mark Busalacchi, who served as the team’s head coach with his wife, Lauren, unable to make the trip. “Every team has some ups and downs and frustration and we had that, but we were definitely peaking at the right time. We didn’t have to play perfectly this weekend, but we had to play well. And we played really well.”
The GLO went undefeated and won the title in its first season in existence in 2019 and backed that up by finishing 11-2 overall this year en route to the title – the 2020 season was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Both losses this year came to the Surge, who were regular-season champions in the league, as the two teams split four meetings in the 2021 campaign.
But with the title on the line and with the GLO sporting a nearly full roster – only starting guard Jolene Anderson was not available – the Surge just couldn’t keep pace for the full 40 minutes.
“This weekend I felt we were at the strongest we have been all year and if we would have had Jo, it would have been that much stronger,” Busalacchi said. “This year was a little rockier than the first. We had more competition. The teams we played were definitely better, including St. Louis.”
St. Louis, in fact, controlled much of the first half on Sunday. The Surge pounded the offensive glass early in the game and built a 14-7 lead midway through the opening period.
The talented guard scored seven points – including a 3-pointer – in an 11-4 run to close the quarter as the GLO tied the game at 18. She then scored 10 of Wisconsin’s first 12 points in the second quarter to keep the GLO on the heels of the Surge.
“She kept us afloat in the first half because we didn’t shoot the ball very well. She kept us in the game,” Busalacchi said. “When she has it going she is as good as there is. I knew going into the game she was going to play an important role for us. We went to her early on and sure enough, she came through.”
Moten’s most important points of the game, though, may have come in the final seconds of the first half.
With St. Louis leading by four points with the ball and three seconds on the clock, Moten – who finished with 19 points in the first half – picked off an inbound pass near midcourt and raced down the floor to score just at the half expired, leaving Wisconsin trailing just 44-42.
“I turned to (assistant coach Madeline Staples) and said that we needed a stop and miracle basket and sure enough she steals it and lays it in at the buzzer. That was huge,” Busalacchi said. “Being down just two, you feel like you are tied. With the way we shot the ball, it could have very easily been a double-digit deficit at halftime instead it was a two-point game and that was pretty much all her.”
Both teams started strong offensively in the second half. Taylor Wurtz knocked down a 3-pointer and had seven points in the opening minutes of the third quarter, while Sam Logic added a pull-up 3 as the two teams were tied at 54 with a little more than six minutes left in the period.
That’s when Wisconsin simply took over.
A free throw by Logic broke the tie before and an elbow jumper from Wurtz and a 3-pointer from Jessica Lindstrom ignited a GLO run that put them ahead to stay. Moten added eight points while Mehryn Kraker and Julie Wojta each added baskets in a 19-5 run to close the period to give Wisconsin a 73-59 advantage.
“We kept rebounding (on the defensive end) and then got hot,” Busalacchi said. “We felt if we kept attacking and kept scoring, they wouldn’t be able to score enough points (to match us). We had that mentality to keep going.”
Moten and Wurtz each hit 3-pointers, while short jumpers from Logic and Wojta made up a 10-2 run to open the fourth quarter as the GLO built its largest lead of the game at 83-61 with 6:48 remaining.
A desperate St. Louis team was able to narrow the margin to 13 points with about three minutes to play, but two free throws apiece from Wurtz and Logic and a key putback by Lindstrom in the final two minutes sealed the win.
Wurtz added 16 points, 14 of which came in the second half, while Julie Wojta chipped in 13 points and seven rebounds. Logic also reached double figures with 10 points, while adding five rebounds and four assists.
Steph Kostowicz chipped in a team-high nine rebounds and had six points as the Wisconsin bench outscored its St. Louis counterparts 41-19.
Alisia Jenkins finished with 21 points and 15 rebounds to lead St. Louis, while Erin Bollman and Rebecca Harris each chipped in 17 points.
The GLO shot 45 percent from the floor in the win and hit 9-of-20 3-pointers – seven different players made at least one trey in the game for Wisconsin. St. Louis shot just 33 percent from the floor.
SEMIFINAL: Wisconsin GLO 97, Flint Monarchs 84
Steph Kostowicz came off the bench to lead five players in double figures with 18 points as the Wisconsin GLO withstood a late push from the Flint Monarchs in a GWBA Tournament semifinal game on Saturday afternoon.
Wisconsin erupted for 32 points in the opening quarter and held a double-digit lead much of the first half before building a 52-41 cushion at intermission. Wisconsin kept Flint at bay in the third quarter and then extended its lead to as many as 21 points in the fourth quarter before the Monarchs went on a 12-0 run to pull within 91-82 with less than two minutes to play.
Kostowicz broke the Monarchs’ momentum by scoring off an assist from Alex Cohen with 59 seconds left and then knocked down two free throws on the next possession to push the lead back to 13 points with 37 seconds left.
“This was definitely the best weekend of the summer for Steph and her athleticism was a problem for Flint,” Busalacchi said. “Steph hasn’t had the summer she thought she might have but she has been getting better and we know that for us to win, she has to help us. We know how capable she is.”
Sam Logic added 14 points for the GLO, while Jessica Lindstrom added 12 points and Julie Wojta and Taylor Wurtz each chipped in 10. Eleven different players scored in the game for Wisconsin.
Lindstrom topped the team with seven rebounds, while Mehryn Kraker had a team-high five assists as Wisconsin finished with 27 assists on 40 field goals.