|3/19/2021 9:40:00 AM|
Pointer girls battle, earn runners-up to state's top ranked team
Mineral Point's girls basketball team was not given second place at last week's WIAA Division 4 state tournament.
They earned it.
They earned it with a convincing win over state power Bangor followed by a four point loss to the state's top ranked team in that division, the tall and talented Mishicot Indians.
They earned it with a finish that was one of those where one of two great teams ran out of clock.
It was that close.
It was a three pointer away from a win and while the Pointers got a shot at it, the ball refused to go completely through the net.
That didn't mean the game was over. Mishicot still had to make enough free throws to have the edge at the end.
That was not as easy for the Indians as it looked. In the final 1:15 they struggled, making only four of 11 from the stripe.
If percentages and past performances mean anything that was 36% by a team that had shot 71% from the line during the season.
Also, 6-0 senior Kylie Schmidt, a Division II recruit at a Purdue, Indiana school, was two of five with one of the misses a bonus throw and she had shot 78% for the season.
But the two she made were enough for the four point margin and the win.
Schmidt ended the game as the scoring leader with 27 points and she picked off 13 rebounds. Her twin tower teammate, 6-0 Desiree Kleiman chipped in 16 points and nine rebounds.
Taking a look at both teams the Indians were stacked up to take control early and keep it. They had lost two early games in the COVID season, one to conference champion and Division 3 state tourney participant Howards Grove, and then reeled of 17 straight wins before meeting the Pointers. They avenged the early loss to Howards Grove and spent the season flirting with the number one ranking in Division 4.
At the other side of the state the Mineral Point girls basketball team had goals of their own and one of them was to win a state championship and they did not care who would be the other one of the last two teams standing. To their credit they almost reached that goal and even though that was not the end result, they treated the entire state television audience watching to a gritty performance using the skills they have worked so hard to develop.
In putting together the plan to reach their goals they had to win several battles, many of them against the COVID pandemic that shut them down and forced them to make adjustments three different times. There was no doubt that was their toughest opponent all season and they deserve a trophy for their win over that.
Along the way they picked up the SWAL crown then added Regional and Sectional plaques to their collection of awards.
Another ranked team stood in their way in the opening game in the Bangor Cardinals who had been no stranger to making appearances at the state tournament. After the Cardinals opened the game with a three pointer five seconds in, it turned into a basketball clinic by the Pointers who rolled to a 66-30 win and set a state record for made three pointers in the process as they put in 13 of 28. Added to that was a chance for every Pointer in uniform to get playing time on the court at the tourney site, the La Crosse Center.
The Pointers played the second game of the morning session whichMgave them about three less hours for their legs to recover than Mishicot who played the first game and beat Fall Creek 55-30.
But Pointer coach Mike Keyes had not a doubt the girls would be ready.
"We practice hard every day," Keyes said. "The word fatigue is not used in our program. We are not going to be worn down."
Most of the time the ball is in the hands of Ella Chambers or Mallory Lindsey who are listed at 5-3 and 5-4 in the program.
"Ella is 5-3 on a good day," Keyes jokes but he also know the size of the body has nothing to do with the size of the heart. He also knows that Ella and Mallory will not back down from any challenge which makes them great leaders along with senior guard Macy Aschliman, another "giant" at 5-5.
The Pointers had to rely on 6-0 junior Blair Watters, 6-0 sophomore Kennedy Wenger and 5-9 sophomore Katelyn Cox to battle the bigger Indians on the boards. Wenger grabbed eight rebounds and added some nice post moves to put up 15 points. Watters had her day interrupted with fouls then left the game for good with 3:25 remaining after scoring five points along with grabbing five rebounds.
Not to be outdone, Chambers ripped away four off the boards.
Chambers and Lindsey were the big shot leaders as they refused to let the Indians gain any kind of control. In fact they orchestrated a comeback from a 13 point deficit to get the game tied at 44 with 8:26 left when Wenger kicked the ball out to Aschliman who drilled a three pointer.
Mishicot tried to pull away again but the Pointers played their own game of tag and knotted the count again with 1:42 left on a Wenger left handed hook in the lane to make it 66-66.
A free throw by Kleiman made it 67-66 with 1:26 remaining.
With 39 seconds left Chambers tried to add to her 20 point total with a three pointer try that had a mind of its own, going part way through the basket before kicking itself back out.
The rest of the game was free throws by Schmidt.
Chambers led the charge with 20 points with Wenger netting 15 and Lindsey 11. It was Lindsey who nailed a pair of clutch three pointers early in the second half to start bringing the Pointers back to even from a 42-36 deficit at intermission.
Mishicot had the edge in rebounds, grabbing 36 to Mineral Point's 29.
The Pointers never led but were able to tie the game three times, meaning that the Indians played with the lead for almost 35 of the 36 minutes in the game.
Two things that did not go in the Pointers' favor were foul trouble and an injury to top reserve guard senior Emily Cody. She suffered a high ankle sprain the first half and spent the rest of the game on crutches.
If there were any doubts about the quality of play exhibited by the Pointers they would be dispelled by Mishicot head coach Mike Garceau who seemed relieved to be in the media room instead of courtside.
"That is one great basketball team," Garceau said. "They are mostly juniors and sophomores. They will be back."
"The way they shoot puts you on a slippery slope," the coach continued. "And it's not just one girl. They are one tough team and I don't know how much longer we could have gone."
Schmidt, who was also in the interview agreed.
"I just wanted it to get over," she said about the game.
Keyes and Chambers had the interview table for the Pointers.
"That was an incredible girls basketball championship game," Keyes said. Two very good teams competed hard. We just came up short."
He pointed out Chambers, who was out three times with COVID complications, always fought her way back."
"She is resilient," he added.
"We came here for the gold," Keyes continued but runners-up is something to be proud of."
Keyes said he knew the Pointers lacked size so they have to play hard and give pressure all the time. He added that the defense sets up the offense.
"We stayed the course and chipped away," said Keyes. "It gave us a chance at the end."
"It was our last game of the year and we were not going to give up," Chambers said. "We were going to give it our all and see what happens."
"The loss is heartbreaking but I am so proud of this team," Keyes said. "They have worked so hard in practice all year. Basketball is very important to these kids and most are three sport athletes."
"We will celebrate this and the captains will be in charge of the off season," continued Keyes. "We will get back to it soon."
SCORE BY HALVES
Mineral Point 36 30 66
Mishicot 42 28 70
MINERAL POINT 66: (fg-ft-tp) Watters 2-1-5, Wenger 7-1-15, Lindsey 3-2-11, Aschliman 3-0-8, Chambers 8-2-20, Cody 0-0-0, Cox 0-1-1, Lawinger 3-0-6, Nodolf 0-0-0 Totals 26-7/13-66 Fouls-24 Fouled out-Watter, Chambers
MISHICOT 70: Kleiman 5-4-16, Schmidt 7-13-27, McArdle 3-2-8, Garceau 4-0-9, Krueger 2-3-7, Tulacha 1-1-3, Callahan 0-0-0, G, Willems 0-0-0, M. Willems 0-0-0 Totals 22-23/36-70 Fouls-12
3 point goals:
MP-(7) Lindsey 3, Aschliman 2, Chambers 2
M-(3) Kleiman 2, Garceau 1
Article Comment Submission Form