Fall Creek looking to solve Neillsville's defense
Can anyone score effectively on Neillsville's defense?
The Warriors (26-0) are undefeated and No. 4 in the state in Division 4 for a reason. Not just because they have some of the top players like junior Paris Opelt, forward and team leading scorer and rebounder at nearly 18 ppg, and seven rebounds per game, the veteran backcourt of seniors Amelia Trunkel and Delaney Rochester, both averaging 13 ppg. with Rochester leading the team in assist with nearly four per game and another scorer in double figures as well in sophomore Sydney Subke.
It's because they play some of the best defense around, Out of 26 opponents, only four teams (Wauwatosa West, Auburndale, Chippewa Falls McDonell and Osseo-Fairchild) scored more than 40 points against them. In 14 wins the Warriors have held opponents to 30 points or less.
In their regional championship victory last weekend over Osseo-Fairchild (59-43), held a Thunder squad which relies on balanced scoring from many different players and often times has several in double figures to just six players scoring altogether and only one in double figures. Neillsville took a 13 point lead at halftime but it might as well have been 30 the way the Warriors play D.
But Fall Creek girls' team has played their fair share of good defense this season, demonstrated by the fact they held Durand-Arkansaw to just nine first half points in the regional title game last weekend (a 47-44 Cricket win in OT). Of course, the Crickets struggled to score themselves against the Panthers but if a good defense can lead to good offense or just any kind of O against the Warriors, then FC will have the chance to pull off the upset when the two teams meet Thursday, March 2 at 7 p.m. in Altoona in the semifinals of the WIAA Colfax Sectional Tournament. The championship game is set tentatively for Saturday, March 4 at 7 p.m.
After all the two teams meet last season in the sectional semis last season at Osseo-Fairchild and Fall Creek only lost to the defending champs 34-28. What could help at both ends of the floor is a young but tall frontline led by freshman center Jasmin Heuer. She had 21 points to help lift FC to a 54-36 regional semifinal win over Augusta. Her scoring in the paint, buckets plus eight free-throws, were a big factor in Fall Creek's win.
"I'm sure she was nervous at first in first tournament game but she was all over the floor playing hard and helping when we had a hard time scoring any points," FC head coach Jason Martzke said.
Heuer was helped out by junior Kambel Sell and sophomore Gracie Marten who combined for 13 key points and playing tough inside. The Crickets depth helped them put on a fullcourt press which created turnover after turnover after turnover on an exhausted Augusta squad that led to a 19-1 run for the Crickets after the game was tied at 35-35 with 7:10 remaining. But Fall Creek will need to get some scoring from their guards sophomore Kennedy Tumm and senior Jenna Anders along with senior forward Tori Marten to having a shot to win the title.
The tournament field also includes regional champs Phillips (22-3) and the host school Colfax. The Loggers, co-champs in the Marawood North Conference as well, have been in the sectional tournament for the past few seasons led again in scoring by junior Kayla Eggebrecht averaging 18 ppg. They also have scorers in sophomore Mataya Eckert, also with an 18 ppg. average and senior Kendall Weik at 10 ppg. Junior Brooke Eckert average over 10 rebounds per game and both Eggebrecht and Mataya Eckert average over five assists per contest. The Vikings (19-6) were tied for second in the Dunn-St. Croix Conference along with Durand-Arkansaw and are in scoring, rebounding and assists by sophomore forward McKenna Shipman. The Vikings also play tough D as well as they upset Cadott 56-35 in the regional finals holding the Hornets to just four players scoring and only one in double figures.