Tri-County Area Times Prep Girls Basketball Round-up: Despite adversity No. 4 ranked Osseo-Fairchild gears-up for playoffs
After the Osseo-Fairchild received No. 1 seed in its half of the WIAA Division 4 Osseo-Fairchild Sectional Tournament bracket, head coach Tera Simpson had these words to say to her team before the playoff start form the team's Facebook page:
"[Being the No. 1 seed] A testament to not only the flexibility and resiliency of those who can still play, but also to the loyalty and continued involvement of those who can't step on the floor. SO proud of this team, each and every one of them," Simpson wrote.
"Through all the adversity; masking, cancellations, quarentines, close contacts, Corona Virus, injuries / breaks and tears, along with the 'normal' student athlete challenges, these athletes have pushed through and shown how to come together and make the best possible out of any situation thrown at them."
The Thunder, 22-1 overall, moved up to No. 4 in the D-4 coaches poll and clinched an outright Western Cloverbelt Conference title last week for the second season in a row with wins at Thorp 75-33 on Tuesday, Feb. 8 and at home vs. Bloomer 58-47 on Friday Feb. 11.
But the rankings and seeds are based on both the body of work throughout the season and the potential of fully healthy club which Thunder are not heading into the postseason. Several players are out due to injury including their top two scorers Brooke McCune and Eleice Dahl and others.
But the Thunder have shown all season how deep a club they are and they proved it last week despite their missing players. Against Thorp Madisyn Loonstra had her best game of the season scoring 18 points while Lacey Frase also finished with a season-best 16 points, and Kaitlyn Sjoug and Mariah Steinke both scored nine points. Against Bloomer,. Steinke stepped up for a season-best 17 points with Taylor Hammer scoring 11 points and Loonstra finishing with nine.
But now comes the acid test, how will this team respond with a date with No. 8 ranked Neillsville, 21-2 overall, for the overall Cloverbelt Conference title on Saturday, Feb. 19 between 7:30 and 8 p.m. at Osseo-Fairchild and then the upcoming tournament, which not only features Neillsville, but Dunn-St. Croix Conference champion No. 10 ranked Colfax, 21-2 overall, a tough Durand squad as a potential foe for the regional title, rival Fall Creek, which has been on a winning streak of late, Cadott and even Eau Claire Regis, led by the Cloverbelt's leading scorer Makenna Rohrscheib, could be tricky in a potential regional semifinal match-up.
But one thing in the Thunder's favor coming up is the fact they will not have to leave the city limits of Osseo or their home gym if they make it all the way to the sectional finals. The No. 1 seed plus the fact the school hosts the sectional title game guarantees this and the strong fan support the Thunder have received this season will be needed and then some to get them through.
Fall Creek, 15-8 overall, extended their winning streak to five games as they upended Cadott 50-42 at home last week Tuesday, Feb. 8 and beat Stanley-Boyd 48-28, also at home, Friday, Feb. 10 in a contest celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Cricket girls' basketball program. Fall Creek's wins put them firmly in third place for this season in the WCC ahead of the Hornets, 17-6 overall.
Defense has led the late-season Cricket revival. FC held Cadott's top scorer Lauren Goettl to just nine points and Stanley-Boyd's top scorer Lily Hoel to just 10 points, eight coming in the first half alone.
"What our focus has been on defense is keeping teams from getting in the middle on us and forcing them outside away from high-percentage shots," FC head coach Jason Martzke said.
On offense, Fall Creek has done better with balanced scoring. Against the Orioles, 7-16 overall, eight players scored for the Crickets led by Tori Marten's 14 with eight each coming from Gianna Vollrath and Anika Steinke. And vs. Cadott, Katie Kent finished with a team-best 11 points while the team had contributions from Marten with nine points, Vollrath with eight and Jenna Anders and JaneyAnne Grossinger with seven points each.
"To get that kind of scoring balance we need to move the ball around constantly," Martzke said. "We can't let it be stagnant. We have to get many touches to many different players."
Augusta, 10-13 overall, bounced back from a pounding from No. 3 ranked and Large Dairyland Conference champion Blair-Taylor, 22-1 overall, 78-37 on Friday, Feb. 11 to rout Boyceville 62-46 Monday, Feb. 14 in a St. Valentine's Day game at Boyceville. Kennedy Korger had a season-best 21 points for the Beavers Sam Winsce finished with 14 points and teammate Brittany Bergman was also in double figures with 10 points. Augusta's Kirsten Willms chipped-in eight points. Hannah Dunn had 19 points for the Bulldogs, 1-22 overall.
Augusta closes its regular season Thursday at 6 p.m. at home vs. Eleva-Strum. Regardless what happens the rest of the way, AHS will surely finish much better than the 3-19 record they had a year ago and with fewer players in the program.
E-S, 9-11 overall, also played on St. Valentine's Day but No. 4 ranked Chippewa Falls McDonell, 20-3 overall, showed them no love as they lost 76-45 at Central. The Cardinals only trailed 39-29 at halftime but were blitzed 37-16 in the second half led by Lauren Deetz and Emily Cooper's 16 points each. Paige Hanner had 17 points to lead E-S and Jaden Bautch scored 13 points. The Cards did win last week Friday, Feb. 11 at Whitehall 65-37. Hanner had a season-best 21 points while Bautch finished with 18 and Maddie Bertrang scored 15 points. The Norse, 11-10 overall, were led by Nylah Lisowski's 10 points. The win assures a winning league season for Eleva-Strum as they conclude with Augusta on Thursday and will play a make-up contest with Independence, 8-13 overall, in the first round of the WIAA Division 4 regional tournament on Feb. 22 at Central.