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Published: Monday, 3/14/2011

BG's Mr. Not-so-nice weighs in

Miller pushes Falcon women en route to MAC tourney title

BY JOHN WAGNER
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

BGSU coach Curt Miller questions a push call by the ref during 2011 Mid-American Conference women's basketball final against Eastern Michigan at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland. BGSU coach Curt Miller questions a push call by the ref during 2011 Mid-American Conference women's basketball final against Eastern Michigan at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland.
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CLEVELAND -- While the Bowling Green State University women's basketball team celebrated its Mid-American Conference tournament title Saturday, coach Curt Miller went to confession.

"I have never pushed a team this hard," Miller admitted after the Falcons' 51-46 victory over Eastern Michigan at Quicken Loans Arena. "I frankly was not the nicest person to them."

There was a method to Miller's madness: BG overcame a midseason lull to win its final eight regular-reason games, then sweep its three tournament contests to claim the program's 11th conference championship.

"This was what I wanted them to feel: the emotion and the energy and the feeling they have now is the reason I pushed them so hard this year," Miller said. "They might not have liked me throughout the year, but they are liking the moment right now."

The Falcons, now 28-4 this season, will find out tonight where they travel to play in the NCAA tournament. The selection show will be broadcast on ESPN starting at 7.

Miller said this NCAA berth is a fitting tribute to a senior class that includes four-year players Chelsea Albert, Tracy Pontius, Lauren Prochaska, Jen Uhl, and Kelly Zuercher along with Maggie Hennegan, a senior who has played the last two years with the Falcons after transferring from Saint Louis University.

BGSU's Tracy Pontius maneuvers around E. Michigan's Tavelyn James during 2011 Mid-American Conference women's basketball final at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland. 
S2 S2pontius 3.26"x3.4" black and white BGSU's Tracy Pontius maneuvers around E. Michigan's Tavelyn James during 2011 Mid-American Conference women's basketball final at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland. S2 S2pontius 3.26"x3.4" black and white
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"This senior class has been under more pressure than any other class at Bowling Green," Miller said. "They entered school right at the time we had just advanced to the [NCAA tournament] Sweet 16.

"They faced more pressure than any other recruiting class at our school, and they rose to every single challenge -- four divisional championships, three outright championships."

This year's four-year seniors have combined for 110 victories, the third-highest total in school history, and have a .810 winning percentage. But they also have faced their share of hard knocks, including losses in the MAC tournament as freshmen and sophomores.

"As disappointing as it was to get knocked out of the MAC tournament their first two years, they stayed tough," Miller said. "They realized how hard it is to win the MAC tournament, and the last two years they found a way to the finish line."

The Falcons will enter the NCAA tournament with a 28-4 record and an 11-game win streak, an impressive bookend to their early season 15-game win streak that included a victory over nationally-ranked Vanderbilt.

And three of BG's losses deserve a bit of an asterisk in that they were by a single point.

But all of that was swept away when Bowling Green accomplished its goal of advancing to the NCAA tournament.

"For us six seniors, this was the way we wanted to go out," Prochaska said. "We didn't want to go back to the [Women's National Invitation Tournament]. We wanted to go to the NCAA tournament."

The seniors agreed that tolerating their grumpy coach in order to win a league crown was a worthwhile trade.

"It means a lot [to win the MAC title], especially with six seniors," Pontius said. "Going out on top is always a great thing."

Prochaska agreed, adding, "This is what we've been working for all year long. The hard work, the practices, all the ups and downs we had this year came down to this game.

"Winning it is the best feeling in the world, and it makes everything worth it."

NOTES: The all-tournament team for the Mid-American Conference included Toledo's Melissa Goodall as well as BGSU's Prochaska and Pontius along with Tavelyn James and Cassie Schrock of Eastern Michigan.

Contact John Wagner at: jwagner@theblade.com or 419-724-6481.



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