MOUNT CARMEL, Ill. -- With family and friends on hand to witness Sophomore Night for several Lady Warriors, the Wabash Valley College women's basketball team survived a hard fought contest by a gritty Lake Land team by a score of 75-69 on Saturday night at Wabash Valley College to clinch the Great Rivers Athletic Conference Regular Season Championship.
The first go around between the two teams was a nail-biter affair on Jan. 9 at Lake Land. The Lakers kept it close once again, withstanding some Lady Laker runs and the vaunted Wabash Valley press.
It seemed as if the Lady Warriors maintained a steady lead for much of the game, but the Lady Lakers continuously fought back, tying the game, narrowing the Lady Warrior edge.
A major factor for Wabash Valley was the play of freshman Pearl Dean. The freshman big dominated the glass and killed the Lady Lakers on offensive rebounds and second chance points on numerous occasions to crush a Lady Laker run. One of these moments came with the score tied a 28-28. Dean grabbed three offensive rebounds and a big putback to put it back up and giving Wabash Valley a 30-28 lead.
The half came with the Lady Warriors narrowly ahead 38-36.
Dean opened the second half strong once again, grabbing a couple offensive boards and layups to reward her energy.
Wabash Valley started to get out in transition and it seemed as if they were set and ready to pull away from a pesky Lady Laker team. Sophomores Marie Hunter and Dazha Congleton scored a couple smooth transition finishes to push the lead to 60-49 at the end of the third quarter.
As head coach Jack Trosper experienced in his first go around with the Lady Lakers, they weren't quite finished.
The Lady Warriors pushed the lead up to 69-56 with just over four minutes remaining after a three straight points by freshman Keya Patton -- but Lake Land rallied back in tremendous fashion. The Lady Lakers used an 11-2 run to narrow the deficit to just four (71-67) with under a minute remaining, but Lake Land was forced to foul.
Hunter knocked down a free throw and stole the ball on the ensuing inbound to put the game on ice.
It's been a tremendous first season for coach Trosper, who took the reins of the program following the departure of former head coach Luke Scheidecker, who left for Indiana State University prior to the season. Ironically Scheidecker was in attendance scouting some Lady Warrior players as his former assistant clinched the title.
The Lady Warriors (24-0) now have just four games remaining in the regular season and remain unblemished. Their next game will come at Olney Central College on Wednesday, Feb. 20 at 5:30 p.m.