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Late Rally Lifts Women's Basketball To Second-Straight MCAC Banner

Shirliz Apiyo's basket from just inside the 3-point line gave CMU a 53-51 lead with 20 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter as the Blazers erased a Providence Pilots lead that had ballooned to as many as 7 points with two and a half minutes left to play as CMU captured their second consecutive Championship in MCAC Women's Basketball on Saturday afternoon on home court.

The Pilots took the lead with 27 seconds remaining in the opening quarter off Natalya Reimer's running one-hander, making the score 17-15 in favour of the #2 seeds. Providence increased their lead to 3 by halftime as the teams went to their respective locker rooms locked in a defensive stalemate 24-21.

Less than 5 minutes after play resumed in the second half, Hannah Van Schie and Taylor Goodbranson combined for 10 points, growing the Pilots lead to ten, 33-23. Coming out of a CMU timeout, Apiyo would find her game as the Blazers rode a 10-2 run to draw even 35-35 with under two minutes left in the quarter before a Goodbranson three-ball lifted Providence back off the ground. As the horn sounded the end of the third, the underdogs were clinging to a 39-37 lead.

The heroics for the home team came out of a CMU timeout, forced by Megan Wiebe's running lay-up that gave the Pilots their second-largest lead of the game, 51-44. From the Blazers inbound, Jessica Marx-Houndle's cross-court pass found a wide open Madison Wood who cashed in two of the rookie's 13 points, cutting the lead to five. On the very next play, Wood read Goodbranson's eyes on the Providence possession to intercept the Pilot's pass, dribble the length of the court and score again on a layup. 

Now trailing by just three, Marx-Houndle grabbed a defensive rebound, outletted to Apiyo, then followed up her teammates missed shot with an offensive rebound put-back while getting fouled for two of her team-high 16 points and her career-high 19th rebound of the game. With ice in her veins, the 2018 MCAC Women's Basketball Championship Most Valuable Player cooly dropped the free-throw, evening the score 51-51 with 1:35 to go.

Marx-Houndle's huge play set her team up with a chance to win, which Apiyo did with her Championship-winning jump shot with 20 seconds remaining for 2 of her 14 points-scored.

The Conference's top-prize was the second in as many years from the Blazers, who prior to 2018 had not won an MCAC Championship in Women's Basketall since 2010. Marx-Houndle would go on to be selected as the Championship Most Valuable for the second-straight season, leading her team in both scoring and rebounding.

With the MCAC Championship banner ready to hang in the rafters, the Blazers' season is not yet over. CMU travels to South Dakota next Thursday to tip-off in the 2019 NIAC Women's Basketball Championships as the number-one seed next Saturday. They will meet the winner of Trinity Bible College and Turtle Mountain Community College who will battle in quarterfinal action on Friday in Agency Village.

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