DeKALB – Watching his daughter pressed into service as a point guard and later hit what would prove to be the game-winning shot against Buffalo, Tim Voigt was transported back to a middle school gym in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin.
Voigt coached middle school boys basketball, and his daughter, Mikayla Voigt, would act as a practice player against the older players.
All of the practice paid off Saturday as Mikayla Voigt, now playing for Northern Illinois, hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key to give the Huskies their first lead of overtime with 40 seconds left in their 86-84 win.
Mikayla Voigt scored a career-high 26 points and netted eight of NIU’s 12 points in overtime, including the go-ahead basket.
Her performance was huge for the Huskies (10-4, 2-1 Mid-American) considering backcourt partner and starting point guard Myia Starks went down with a knee injury in the fourth quarter.
“We needed her to step up not just scoring the basketball, but running the team and understanding what we needed to have happen,” NIU coach Lisa Carlsen said of Mikayla Voigt. “She’s a great player, and she’s been in a lot of close games and a lot of tight situations.”
But for Mikayla Voigt, a junior from Slinger, Wisconsin, running the point wasn’t something new. She was both a scorer and a facilitator in high school at Kettle Moraine Lutheran, where she owns the school record in career points with more than 1,200.
Tim Voigt was in attendance Saturday and said his daughter’s career-best performance reminded him of when she would play with the older boys back in grade school.
Tim, a then-seventh and eighth grade boys basketball coach at Bethlehem Lutheran School in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, brought Mikayla to practices when she was 5 years old. By the time she was 9, Mikayla was filling in as a practice player and played against boys who were 5 to 6 years older than her.
“I told my boys do not take her out,” Tim said with a chuckle.
Voigt’s first love was soccer but she said after attending so many of her dad’s practices, basketball became a second nature for her.
She said, “I just wanted to do what the guys did with ball handling and shooting on side baskets. … It most definitely helped me. I think the sooner you start being around basketball, it just becomes a part of your life.”
The Huskies led Buffalo, 70-61, with less than two minutes left in regulation, however, NIU allowed the Bulls to come back as they ended the fourth quarter on a 13-4 run.
Buffalo (11-3, 2-1) held an early lead in overtime, but Voigt had seen enough. She scored NIU’s’ first five points and sparked the Huskies to a quality victory over one of the league’s best teams.
“She did what we needed her to do and obviously hit big shots, which we know she’s capable of doing,” Carlsen said. “It was her poise on the basketball court in the last five minutes that was the difference.”