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Published: Sunday, 3/8/2009

BGSU holds off Ohio to claim outright title

BY MATT MARKEY
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

BOWLING GREEN - The clock runs out, the horn sounds, and somebody has to be ready to cue up Freddie Mercury and Queen singing all about the champions.

The celebratory ritual has been well-rehearsed and become almost familiar for the Bowling Green State University women's basketball team, which clinched a fifth straight outright Mid-American Conference championship Saturday by turning back Ohio 79-64.

"Every time I hear it, I am just so thankful that we made it, to be champions," Lindsey Goldsberry, BG's lone senior, said after her final game at Anderson Arena.

"Every year is different. And every year it's meant a lot. It's not something you can take for granted. Every time we have to go out, we have to fight because every team is after us."

The Falcons won this title by reeling off 25 straight wins and not losing a conference game until the final week of the season. They bounced back from that Wednesday loss at Miami and claimed the league title outright with a 15-1 MAC record.

"It is such a special opportunity," BG coach Curt Miller said about what his team accomplished this season. "Every championship has been different, every dynamic of the team has been different, so this one was just as special."

Miller pulled his first MAC championship ring off the shelf and wore it yesterday, hoping his team would get the message to treasure the opportunity.

"I wanted to remind them that it doesn't matter if it's the first one or the fifth one - they are all very, very special," he said. "We would have shared it, but what a feeling that we can say 'outright' for a fifth straight time."

The Falcons surged to a 13-point lead in the first 13 minutes of the game and seemed to have matters in hand. But Bowling Green got sloppy and failed to score again until just two seconds remained in the half.

During that lapse, Ohio reeled off 11 straight points and closed to within two. Bowling Green led

30-26 at the break, but the momentum definitely belonged to the Bobcats.

"It was everything we were doing," BG junior Tara Brekse said about the rash of turnovers and missed shots that plagued the Falcons.

Ohio (12-17, 7-9) hung around and hung around, and with 6:50 left in the game, the Falcons led just 57-56. Bowling Green pulled away from there, leading 70-60 after Jen Uhl completed a three-point play with four minutes left in the game.

"I give our kids credit," Miller said. "We could have folded at halftime. We gave up a 13-point lead late in the first half, and we knew we let an opportunity slip. We had to come out and outplay them because it was anybody's game."

Niki McCoy led the Falcons with 21 points coming off the bench, the biggest chunk of a 28-point effort by the Bowling Green subs.

"I thought our bench played well and was a big difference in the game," Miller said.

Breske had 13 points, Tracy Pontius and Uhl scored 11 each, and Lauren Prochaska added 10 as five Falcons scored in double figures. Goldsberry said that kind of balance is one of the Falcons' main strengths.

"That sums up our team. You never know who that player is going to be," Goldsberry said.

After receiving a first-round bye and the top seed as the conference champion, the Falcons (26-3) will play next on Friday morning at 11 in the MAC Tournament quarterfinals in Cleveland.

Contact Matt Markey at:

mmarkey@theblade.com

or 419-724-6510.



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