Green Bay Beats Wright State To Win Fourth Straight Horizon League Championship
By Seth J. Walker
Detroit- The top seeded Green Bay Phoenix defeated the third seeded Wright State Raiders Tuesday afternoon in the Horizon League Championship game, 62-44. This marks the fourth straight tournament championship and 16th overall for the Phoenix. The last time they failed to win it was in 2014 when they lost to the Raiders. As the Horizon League Champions, the Phoenix clinch an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
The Raiders were within striking distance after a third-quarter run brought them to within 11, before senior guard Chelsea Welch missed a jumper, which the Phoenix were able to capitalize and reestablish momentum.
The Phoenix capped an impressive run in this tournament with three players earning All-Tournament Team distinction, senior forward Jessica Lindstrom, junior guard Jen Wellnitz, and senior guard Allie LeClaire, the 2018 Tournament, Most Valuable Player. LeClaire led all scorers with 24 points and adding eight rebounds. This marked her second 20-point game of the tournament after scoring 21 in the quarterfinal win over Northern Kentucky.
For Lindstrom and LeClaire, this marks their fourth Horizon League Championship in as many years, as they’ve never known the feeling of coming up short in their collegiate careers.
“It feels really good,” Lindstrom said. “We are so blessed to go to the NCAA Tournament since our freshman year. I think we got a taste of it, that was like our freshman year and we were young at that point, and we were like, “This is awesome,” and you want to relive this as many times as you can. Luckily, we’ve done that.”
The Raiders as the Horizon League’s third place team in the regular season will very likely receive an invitation to a postseason tournament. IUPUI gets the automatic bid to the WNIT as the second place team in the regular season, but the Raiders could get an at-large bid, which Raiders head coach Katrina Merriweather believes they’re deserving of.
“Absolutely,” Merriweather said. “Our RPI is in the top 100. Continuing to play is always going to be beneficial. Plus, Lexi (Smith) and Chelsea deserve the opportunity to continue their season.”
For Welch, playing at Wright State was especially important. Hailing from Kettering, Ohio, a suburb of Dayton, she spent her first two year at Pittsburgh before transferring to Wright State, in Dayton.
“Being a Wright State Raider definitely gave me a home,” Welch said. “I did feel like at my past school that I fitted in. I wasn’t happy. I was so far from home. I came to Wright State and everyone took me in, right away. I felt like family with everyone, from administration to the staff, to even professors, like in knowing me, just seeing how I’m doing. It’s definitely going to be sad when it comes to an end because, we have our ups and downs, but, they have always been there for me. Being a Raider, it’s just a big family, and a home away from home.”
Both the Phoenix will now await their fate on where’ they’ll be in the bracketing in the NCAA Tournament as the selection show will be on Monday at 7pm on ESPN.