MARQUETTE - For the Northern Michigan University women's basketball team, things are looking up in the GLIAC North Division standings.
It's the GLIAC South, however, that could keep the Wildcats out of the postseason.
The 'Cats appeared to be in control of their own postseason destiny heading into the regular season finale at 3 p.m. Saturday against Michigan Tech in Houghton, but now only one sure-fire scenario exists to get NMU into its second straight GLIAC tournament.
Northern Michigan University sophomore guard Alyssa Colla drives inside past Michigan Tech guard Danielle Blake on Feb. 2 at the Berry Events Center in Marquette. Colla and the ‘Cats beat the Huskies 69-60 in the first meeting with Game 2 set for 3 p.m. on Saturday in Houghton. (Journal file photo by Matt Wellens)
The Wildcats must complete the season sweep of their biggest rival, the Huskies, on their home floor, plus have Northwood upset Saginaw Valley State in Midland. It's the only scenario that lifts the Wildcats into fifth in the North and seventh overall.
"If we happen to get a win on (Tech's) home court, great," NMU head coach Troy Mattson said. "That just tells us that we have matured more and more. If for some reason we were to get beat, I'm extremely proud of where this team is at this time of the year and how we played the last six weeks."
If that doesn't pan out, win or lose against the Huskies, the 'Cats need a victory by Malone on the road against Walsh or by Findlay at home against Hillsdale.
Malone currently sits third in the GLIAC South, but is ineligible for the postseason, meaning the team with the next-best record overall in the GLIAC - whoever finishes sixth in the North Division - gets the final bid.
Wins by Walsh and Hillsdale on Saturday mean the Chargers finish third in the South and the Chargers get into the GLIAC tournament with a worse record that the Wildcats.
"We can't control what's going to happen in the South," Mattson said. "If Findlay wins, we're in. If Malone wins, we're in. If they both lose, we're out. It's about as simple as that, other than if we beat Tech and Saginaw was to lose to Northwood.
"We have three scenarios here of other teams that are involved with us that we can't control. All we're going to do is go up there and play our best and see what happens."
In the first meeting against Tech on Feb. 2 in Marquette, the Wildcats rallied from a 30-18 halftime deficit that ballooned to 15 points in the second half to defeat the Huskies for only the second time in the last 19 games against their rivals, 69-60.
It was Northern's first win over Tech in Marquette since Feb. 16, 2004, and snapped a five-game losing streak.
"It's a lot of pressure off of us getting that first win against them and understanding that we can do that type of thing against them," said Mattson, who has only beaten Tech twice in his eight seasons as NMU's head women's basketball coach.
"We're going to have to be really aggressive on the offensive end. When we started to get real aggressive on the offensive end, they had a tough time handling us in a lot of situations. We're a little bit bigger, a little bit stronger on the wings. When we started to attack them, they didn't really have an answer for us. We made a huge run real quick.
"I'd like to see if we can do that a little more frequently throughout this game."
The Huskies are looking for more than just revenge Saturday against the Wildcats. Tech wants to send its two seniors - Sam Hoyt and Emma Veach - out on a high note and take another step toward securing a NCAA tournament bid after coming in at No. 5 in the latest Midwest regional rankings.
The best way to accomplish both of those goals is with at least a share of GLIAC North Division title. Wayne State lost its half-game lead on Tech Wednesday night via a 61-60 road loss to Malone, meaning the Huskies can clinch a share of the division crown with a win Saturday over NMU.
"We're going to have to deal with a lot of emotion from their end because it's Sam Hoyt and Emma Veach's senior day," Mattson said. "That's going to be the big thing, how hard they are going to play, along with how hard their teammates are going to play."
Matt Wellens can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/mattwellens