GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) – The Green Bay women’s basketball program hasn’t been to the NCAA tournament in five years, but the Phoenix can take a big step in the right direction if they beat Cleveland State on Thursday night at the Kress Events Center for a chance to clinch a share of the Horizon League regular season title.

“We haven’t been in a position to win a championship in a while, so this is a really big game,” said guard Cassie Schiltz. “But also the goal is to win the Horizon League conference tournament title and make it to the NCAA. So yeah, this is a huge game, and I’m excited for it.” 

Head Coach Kevin Borseth has been down this road many times before in his coaching career with several great players and teams, but even he admits this might be one of the grittiest and scrappiest groups he has been around.

“I was talking to someone this morning, and you don’t really know what your team is going to look like until you see them throughout the course of the year. You see them when their backs are against the wall, and they are as tough as a group as I’ve had coaching”, said Borseth. “We don’t do anything different with our players every year, it’s pretty much the same thing, but this crew has really seemed to be just really zeroed in, just really focused.”

Green Bay beat Cleveland State in their first matchup 82-65 in Cleveland on January 14th in a game that was never really in doubt as the Phoenix built a 26-point lead heading into the 4th quarter, but this has been a Vikings program that has routinely tested Green Bay in recent years.

“They’ve beat us up twice bad in the last three years, so it’s not something you ever forget,” said Borseth. “They score 75-78 points a game, and they’re good in transition. They’re good in half-court. They’re good defensively. They are as good as any team that you will see in the country with that zone (defense) because it’s extremely difficult. They’re physical, they can rebound, and they can do it all. They are a really good basketball team. You’ve got to put the ball in the hole. You’re not going to win games by just scoring 50 points, you know it just isn’t going to happen. You’re going to have to be able to score in any game for that matter. You’ve got to be able to score of the ball against anybody and I think we went down there and made some hoops and that really helped us.”

Ironically it was just over one month ago, when Maddie Schreiber left the lineup with a shoulder injury, and nobody knew for sure just who would pick up the scoring slack in her absence, but several players have increased their production and this group is as balanced as any team in the past.

“You know we’ve been pretty resilient all things considered,” said Borseth. “We’ve lost some players and we’ve shuffled some in and out, and I think really think that adversity has brought this crew pretty close together. And as a result, we’ve just been playing with a sense of urgency which has really helped us.” Schiltz added, “I think you have to be tough, you have to be mentally tough, and physically tough to play at this level, so I think that we’ve definitely had to persevere through some injuries and through some unknowns this year.  But all together we’ve just stayed together as a team knowing what we can do when we are all out there on the court.”

The Phoenix and Vikings currently sit tied at the top of the Horizon League standings with a 16-2 league record. With a win over CSU Thursday, Green Bay would clinch a share of the regular season Horizon League title, and would then clinch the league outright if they were to win again Saturday.