Grizzlies win season finale

It may have been Senior Night Saturday at the O’Rena, but it was a freshman who stole the show and helped lead the Golden Grizzlies to big regular season-ending victory.

The Oakland University women’s basketball team defeated the IPFW Mastodons 82-68 behind freshman forward Bethany Watterworth’s career night.

Watterworth scored a career-high 32 points on 12 of 20 shooting, the first time a Grizzly player had scored over 30 since senior Hanna Reising’s 32 points in February 2008.

OU women’s head coach Beckie Francis honored her four seniors — Melissa Jeltema, Hanna Reising, Stacey Farrell and Riikka Terava — by inserting them all into the starting lineup. Despite coming off the bench, Watterworth quickly got to work.

“About midway through the first half, we got stops on defense that triggered fast-break points for everyone and that got us going,” Watterworth said. “We were aggressive and attacked the basket all the way. I kept my head and kept attacking.”

Utilizing a variety of low-post moves, fast break layups, and jump shots, Watterworth had 16 points in 16 first-half minutes.

After IPFW had taken a 30-27 lead with just under four minutes left in the first half, the Grizzlies defense picked up their intensity, ending the half on a 12-4 run.

The highlight of the run came when Watterworth made a full court heave of a pass to Jeltema for an easy layup. 

On the next possession, freshman Victoria Lipscomb had a block and a steal and quickly went down the court for a transition basket with three minutes left to play in the first half.

“As a freshman, Victoria’s stat line is so steady, but she comes up with big plays at key moments to spur us,” Francis said. “She has been huge for us all year.”

OU held a 39-34 advantage at the break.

The Mastodons managed to stay competitive in the first eight minutes of the second frame, tying the game at 58-58. IPFW sophomore and Pontiac native Stephanie Rosado helped her team’s cause with 24 points before fouling out late in the game.

From that point on, however, the game belonged to the Grizzlies, as they promptly went on an 18-0 scoring run and coasted to victory.

“Obviously, we’re disappointed because we came up here to win a basketball game against a team we thought we matched up pretty well against. But they’re playing really good basketball right now and they took advantage of some mismatches,” said IPFW head coach Chris Paul. “Unfortunately, this game came down to a couple of runs. They went on a run, we battled back and then they went on another run.”

Jeltema and Reising finished with 12 and 10 points, respectively, while Terava had six assists in the trio’s last game played at the O’Rena in their careers.

Also contributing a spark off the bench was junior Anna Patritto, who had nine points, four rebounds, four assists and two blocks.

The pregame ceremony honoring the four seniors on the roster reached an emotional high as Terava was able to speak with her family in Finland via Skype on the O’Rena scoreboard.

After the game, Reising spoke on behalf of the seniors, thanking the coaching staff, her teammates, the administration and the fans.

“I want to give a lot of credit to our seniors. They played with a lot of emotion,” Francis said. “This team is very close, and the fact that they can put the emotion away and get the job done makes me very proud.”

Oakland finished the season with victories in nine of their last 10 games and a record of 17-12, 14-4 in conference play.

With the victory, OU also clinched the No. 2 seed in the upcoming Summit League Tournament, which begins March 6.

“We’re in a really good place right now. We’re coming off a lot of wins and playing well as a team,” Jeltema said.