BGSU women win 77-76 thriller over Akron for conference crown


Mid-American Conference women's basketball championships won by Bowling Green:


13: 1987, 1988, 1989, 1993, 1994, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2014


11: 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1993, 1994, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2010, 2011


AKRON — For the eighth time in 10 years, the Bowling Green State University women’s basketball team stands atop the Mid-American Conference.

The Falcons claimed the outright MAC regular-season championship Saturday with a thrilling 77-76 win at Akron.

Jillian Halfhill’s basket with just 6.6 seconds to play lifted BG to the win which, combined with Central Michigan’s 99-84 overtime loss to Eastern Michigan, gave the Falcons the title and the top seed for the MAC tournament.

After two free throws by Akron’s Hanna Luburgh with 20.1 seconds to play, Halfhill dribbled the ball to the basket and made a difficult layup in traffic.

The Zips got the ball down the court but saw a potential game-winning shot fall short.

“There was nothing going through my mind except, ‘We have to put the ball in the basket. We have to score,’ ” said Halfhill, who finished with six points and four assists. “I knew if I missed it, Alexis [Rogers] or Jill [Stein] would get the rebound.

“I wished it up there, hoping it would go in, and I came out lucky.”

Rogers finished with 23 points and 15 rebounds to lead BG (26-3, 16-1 MAC). Stein scored 12 points, while Miriam Justinger, who had missed the last two games because of illness, added 11 as the Falcons won their 13th straight game.

Luburgh scored 20 points for Akron (20-8, 14-3), which saw a school-record 13-game winning streak snapped. Anita Brown had 17 points while Kacie Cassell and Katie Nunan each had 10 for the Zips, who lost leading scorer Rachel Tecca to an injury less than three minutes into the contest.

The Falcons led 16-11 with 10:45 left in the first half, but Akron went on a 6-0 run to take a 17-16 lead, and a three-point play by the Zips’ Brown at 8:31 of the half sparked an 8-2 run and gave them a 25-21 lead with 7:33 left.

A 3-pointer by Deborah Hoekstra cut BG’s deficit to 27-26 with 3:48 on the clock, but that was the Falcons’ final field goal of the half and Akron led 38-32 at halftime.

The Zips used a 6-0 run to take a 55-50 lead with 11:09 to play, but a three-point play by Rogers at the 7:05 mark tied the contest at 62.

Neither team led by more than three points from that point, and the score was tied at 72-all when Akron’s Brown made the first of two free throws with 1:37 left.

Luburgh made a jumper at 1:17 to give the Zips the lead, but Justinger was fouled shooting a 3-pointer with 45.4 seconds left. Justinger made all three free throws to give BG a 75-74 lead.

Luburgh was fouled with 20.1 seconds left and made both free throws to set the stage for Halfhill’s heroics.

“Anyone would have been naïve to think this game wasn’t going to go down to the end,” BG coach Jennifer Roos said. “I fully anticipated that, and I felt we were fortunate that Jillian made that shot when she did. I wanted this [win] for our staff, and I wanted this for our team, and I wanted this for our fans.”

The Falcons, who won the 13th MAC regular-season title in school history, will play at noon Friday at Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena in the MAC tournament semifinals