by Terry Rabbitts
CLEVELAND,OHIO — Hoop fans, it is finally here! March Madness has begun! First the MAC tournament before the NCAA Big Dance begins!
The first game of the day saw the 5th seeded Broncos of Western Michigan (20-11) defeated the Chippewas of Central Michigan (13-18) holding the ninth seed, 81-68.
The first seven minutes saw the teams battling back and forth as Kerby Tamm buried a three-pointer for the Chippewas to give them a 13-12 lead at the 12:58 mark.
A combination of bad shooting from Central and a hot streak from Marquisha Harris from Western was the story of a 16-0 run over the next 6:47 giving the Broncos a solid 28-13 lead.
Harris hit 4 field goals and one from the charity stripe to pace Centrals run. The Chippewas were shooting a meager 18.7 percent at one point in the first half.
A.J. Johnson’s three just before the halftime buzzer gave Western a 42-27 lead. Harris led with 11 points and 5 rebounds, while Jessica Jessing added 5 points and 6 boards.
Kerby Tamm led Central Michigan with 6 points, Lorreal Jones had 4 rebounds. The Chippewas shot 20.7 percent (6-29) in the half.
The second half started with Jazmine Windham of the Broncos hitting a three off the glass from about 8 feet behind the arc as the shot clock ran out.
However, the Chippewas used a 15-7 run of their own led by Jones and Tamm to cut the lead to 57-47 at the 10:44 mark.
Over the next 9 minutes, the teams traded baskets with Central not able to get any closer than 9 and Western not able to stretch to more than 12 until Miracle Woods hit a pair of free throws with 1:29 left in the game to make it 80-66 Western.
Western Michigan had 8 players hit the scorebook led by Harris with a team high 17, Woods added 16, and Johnson’s 12. Woods and Harris each collected 9 caroms while Alex Morton dished out 6 assists.
Central’s Kerby Tamm paced all scorers with 20, followed by Da’Jourie Turner’s 15, and Jones 14. Jones controlled the boards with 12 and Turner dished out 9 dimes.
Western Michigan advances to play the fourth seeded Buffalo Bulls Thursday at noon.
In the second game, #6 Eastern Michigan (20-11) started off the game strong and held off a mini comeback and got past #7 Toledo 74-57.
The Eagles jumped to a quick 12-3 lead as four different players scored to start the game before the Rockets (18-13) finally called a time out.
The first 8 minutes of the game looked like a repeat of the first game as the Eagles shot 53.8% and held a 16-6 advantage while the Rockets shot 12.5%.
Somehow Toledo managed to stay close despite starting the game 0-11 from the field inside the three point arc. The Rockets helped themselves by hitting 6-10 behind the line. The score with 8 minutes left in the first half was 23-18.
Jay-Ann Bravo-Harriott from London, England, starting the game 5-6 from beyond the arc for the Rockets and paced them with 15 points in the opening half.
Inma Zanoguera, from Spain, finally hit a lay-up with 3:10 to go to snap 0-13 drought from inside the three point line.
A 4-point play by Ana Capotosto and a jumper from Zanoguera allowed the Rockets to close the gap to 29-28 with just 1:22 in the half.
Brianna Puni drove the lane and hit a lay-up with 8 ticks left in the half to give the Eagles a 33-28 lead at the break.
Janay Morton and Cha Sweeney led the Eagles with 9 and 7 points respectively. On the other side, Sophie Reecher grabbed 7 rebounds while Capotosto snared 6 of her own to help the Rockets in the first half.
With the Eagles clinging to a 41-36 advantage with 16:30 remaining, Eastern ran off a 10-0 streak to take control at 51-36, before Toledo scored again at the 12 minute mark.
In the end, the Eagles were just too much for the Rockets to handle and Toledo could not shake off the cold start shooting. Eastern actually took their largest lead of the game at 74-55 with 49 ticks left on the clock.
Sweeney’s 29 points led the Eagles, Morton chipped in 19, and Puni 10. Phillis Webb corralled 9 rebounds for Eastern.
Toledo’s Bravo-Harriott topped all scorers with 30 and was the only Rocket in double figures, while Reecher grabbed 16 rebounds in the defeat.
After Toledo shot 2-15 in the first half in front of the arc, and that ineptness followed them outside in the second when they shot 2-17 (11.8%) after the intermission.
With the win, Eastern Michigan will now have the task of taking on the Zips who are the third seeded team on Thursday.
The evening games started with Bowling Green taking on Eastern Michigan as the men’s teams hit the floor. The Eagles of Eastern outlasted the Falcons with a strong finish at the end, 73-67.
The game featured 17 lead changes and 11 ties.
BG entered tonight as the 5 seed while Eastern was the 8th, both teams entered tonight’s matchup with 20 wins on the season, and the first half was played just like you would expect it to with evenly matched records.
Neither team could take control of the first half and get out to a big lead as they kept trading buckets. The Falcons (20-11) tried to take control after a Jehvon Clarke jumper gave them a 27-21 advantage with 8:26 remaining in the half.
After a Eagles’ timeout, Karrington Ward and Mike Talley each hit layups and Brandon Nazione slammed one home and we were tied again at 27.
The Falcons’ Zack Denny canned a 15 footer near the end of the half to bring the score to 40-30 with the Eagles having the advantage.
Raven Lee (15) and Mike Talley(14) combined for 29 of the Eagles 40 first half points. Richaun Holmes led BG with 16 while Clarke added 8 of his own.
The second half played out just the same as the first with both teams trying to get the upper hand but the opponent would answer the call.
Eastern (21-12) took a 4 point lead with just over 13 minutes to go in the game, but the Falcons came back and actually took a 4 point lead of their own at the 9:15 mark..
It stayed tight until the 3 minute mark when everything started going Eastern’s way. With the game tied at 67, Lee hit two from the charity stripe to give the Eagles a lead.
A Falcon turnover and a couple of missed shots later, Talley canned a couple of freebies from the line to up the lead to 4.
Bowling Green could not hit a bucket and Anali Okoloji split four from the line to close the scoring.
The trio of Lee (27), Talley (21), and Ward (15) scored all but 10 of the Eagles points on the evening. Ward added 10 boards to his stat sheet.
Holmes and Clarke paced the Falcons with 18 a piece and Denny contributed 13 more in the loss.
Eastern will now advance and play the fourth seeded Toledo Rockets Thursday evening at 6:30 pm.