GREEN BAY, Wis. -- This loss is going to stick with Detroit for a while.
The Titans had a nine-point lead early on but couldn't overcome a key injury and foul trouble in the second half of a 66-53 loss to No. 10 Wisconsin-Green Bay in the Horizon League tournament championship game on Sunday.
Detroit coach Autumn Rademacher was very emotional in the postgame press conference. She and her players felt like they were going to win and clinch the Horizon's automatic berth in the NCAA tournament.
Instead, the Titans (20-13) are headed to the WNIT and left to wonder what might have been after winning 19 of their last 24 games but coming up just short in their final effort.
"It's amazing. I don't even know what to say. I don't know what happened where or when but obviously collectively they got together as a group and said `this is what we're going to do,'" Rademacher said of her team's turnaround after starting the season 1-8. "I definitely credit the seniors for doing that because I think that at some point you wake up and you say Oh, you know what, this is coming to an end.'
"I'm very pleased with the outcome (of the season). Just falling short is disappointing and you try to maintain your composure but when you've got your babies crying, it's hard."
Shareta Brown had a team-high 22 points and nine rebounds for Detroit before fouling out late in the game. Senee Shearer had 14 points and hit four 3s to complement Brown, but the Titans' chances took a huge hit when Shearer left the game injured with just under 17 minutes to go.
The Titans had a two-point lead when Shearer went down, but the Phoenix went on a 11-2 run after the injury and never trailed again.
"I think we're right there with them. We could have beat them. We just didn't finish the game out strong," Brown said.
Julie Wojta had a game-high 29 points and 12 rebounds and freshman Megan Lukan added 20 points to lead Green Bay.
The Phoenix (30-1) were all but assured an at-large NCAA bid even if the Titans had won, but Green Bay avenged its only regular-season loss – at home against Detroit on Feb. 9 – and made its case for a high seed when the tournament pairings are released Monday.
"Your senior year you want it to end the way you picture it and that's exactly what this was," Wojta said. "It was a close exciting game and there's more emotion behind it and we had to fight for it and really come together as a team. I think just that feeling of doing that and coming out with a win is something you'll remember."
Wojta, the conference player of the year, was also named tournament MVP as she had double-doubles in both the semifinal and final games.
However, it was Lukan who provided the big lift when Green Bay was in trouble early on. She hit three 3s and had 11 points in the first half to help the Phoenix stay within 30-27 at the break.
Lukan downplayed her big game, saying it was a result of the Titans focusing on the Phoenix's other scoring threats, but Wojta said Lukan's contribution was immense.
"Don't let her fool you. She's a freshman and she stepped up huge," Wojta said. "It's just amazing to see how far Megan has come this year and to see her hit big shots. She wasn't wide open on some of those 3s and she took it to the lane. . This kid can play.
"She just continues to step up time and time again and I love the mentality she's playing with, and it's only going help our team in the (NCAA tournament)."
Green Bay is heading into the NCAA tournament on a 10-game winning streak and had only one regular-season loss for the second straight year. The Phoenix also won the Horizon League regular-season title.