Phoenix falls in Horizon League title game

Horizon Cleveland St Green Bay Basketball
Posted at 3:25 PM, Mar 07, 2023

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Gabriella Smith made five 3-pointers and scored 19 points, Brittni Moore had 14 points and 10 rebounds and No. 2 seed Cleveland State beat top-seeded Green Bay 73-61 on Tuesday to claim its first Horizon League Tournament championship since 2010.

Cleveland State (30-4), which played in its second straight tournament championship game, will make the program's third appearance in the NCAA Tournament. The Vikings snapped a two-game losing streak against Green Bay this season after falling 82-65 on Jan. 14 and 64-49 on Feb. 23.

Deja Williams had a personal 7-0 run to put Cleveland State ahead for good with 6:15 left in the second quarter. The Vikings led 34-28 at halftime and Destiny Leo sank a contested 3-pointer just before the third-quarter buzzer to extend the lead to 49-39.

Cleveland State scored the opening 11 points of the fourth quarter for a 21-point lead. Green Bay rallied late after making seven straight field goals, but Cleveland State maintained a double-digit advantage throughout the fourth quarter.

"This has been a five-year journey, we've been here four times and we've had a lot of hard days," Cleveland State coach Chris Kielsmeier said. "We never stopped believing. When the moment comes, you gotta be at your best and boy we fight tonight. What a together group."

Leo, the league's player of the year, scored 10 of her 13 points in the second half for Cleveland State. Williams finished with 10 points and Smith made her first four 3-point attempts before finishing 5 of 7.

Green Bay struggled from 3-point range for most of the game, starting 4 of 28 before two late makes to finish at 19% from distance.

Natalie McNeal secured her second double-double of the season with 18 points, 13 rebounds and six steals for the Phoenix. Sydney Levy went 3 for 10 from 3-point range and finished with nine points.

Green Bay (27-5) was attempting to capture its 20th Horizon League Tournament title and the first since the 2018.