The third time was a charm for the Wayne girls basketball team Thursday night.
The Blue Devils, with two previous losses to Pierce this season--most recently a 49-40 defeat 12 days ago in the third-place game of the Mid-State Conference Tournament--missed out on a chance to win in regulation, then overcame a four-point deficit in overtime to earn a 39-27 victory in the C1-7 subdistrict final played at Norfolk High School.
The win sends Wayne to the district final next Friday against Ord (a 58-30 winner over O’Neill) at a site to be determined and, most importantly, an opportunity for the Blue Devils to qualify for the state basketball tournament for the first time since 1993.
Coach Dave Hix, in his second year as the Blue Devils’ head coach and with his team celebrating nearby, couldn’t have been much happier with his team’s achievement in what became a low-scoring, grind-it-out, pressure-packed win.
“Look at it (celebration); that explains it all. The girls actually believed we could beat them, and that’s the only way you can do it,” Hix said. “I thought we had it with the five-point lead (31-26) late in regulation before they tied it; then, we get down four in overtime, but the girls never quit. They gutted it out, and our seniors really came through.”
Those seniors included Tarah Stegemann--commonly her team’s leading scorer--who struggled through an 0 for 10 night from the field but made her only two free throws with under a minute left in regulation to create Wayne’s five-point lead before Pierce sent the game into regulation with Jaci Brahmer’s offensive rebound-putback and Carly Sutherland’s 3.
Also Danica Schaeger, who overcame a 3 of 11 shooting performance to be her team’s leading scorer by making 6 of 7 free throws--including, most importantly, the two game-clinching points with four seconds left to play in overtime.
But underclassmen contributed in a big way as well.
With the Blue Devils trailing by four points with just over a minute left in the extra period, junior Kelsey Boyer cashed in back-to-back 3s from the right corner to put Wayne back on top 37-36 before the Bluejays’ Casey Sutherland tied the game by making one of two free throw attempts, setting up Schaeger’s heroics.
Kylie Hammer, a sophomore, helped the Blue Devils establish themselves offensively during the critical second quarter when she sparked a 9-0 Wayne run to establish a 17-8 lead--the largest of the low-scoring game--while scoring all nine of her points in the first half.
Hix said that part of his squad’s strategy was based on lessons learned in the previous two games against the Bluejays.
“We pressured a little bit more tonight than in the past; you always worry about their height, and they were successful posting up Shelby Bretschneider until she got her fourth foul,” Hix said. “In their 2-3 zone they’re so long on the bottom corners that you can’t get a shot off unless you shoot quick. We wanted to go inside out at the high post; we knew we weren’t going to score if we just went inside.”
Pierce coach Darren Sindelar lamented his team’s struggles in the contest praised his team for fighting back, with Carly Sutherland’s 3 with seconds remaining to send the game into overtime tied at 31-31 as an example.
“The kids fought back; I can’t praise them enough for that. She gave us a chance. We had our opportunities but, as they say, it’s hard to win three times against good teams,” Pierce coach Darren Sindelar said. “We were out of sync in that first quarter (no field goals) and didn’t play real well, but we settled down there at the end and put ourselves in a position to win. It just wasn’t in the cards. They’re a good ballclub and hit some big shots at the end.”
The Bluejays’ Shelby Bretschneider, by posting up for several baskets inside, scored a game-high 13 points. Casey Sutherland added eight points for Pierce, which shot just 25 percent from the field and made half of its 24 free throw attempts.
The Bluejays--currently in fifth position on the power-points list of potential wild card teams--slip to 21-4 on the season and, as they have in the past two seasons, will hope to gain a berth at state via a wild card.
C1-7 girls subdistrict final
Wayne ........................... 6 13 4 8 (8) -- 39
Pierce ............................ 4 12 8 6 (6) -- 37
Wayne (16-10): Tarah Stegemann 0-10 2-2 2, Kylie Hammer 4-10 0-1 9, Kelsey Boyer 3-8 3-4 11, Morgan Keating 2-6 0-0 4, Danica Schaeger 3-11 6-7 12, JAmie Gamble 1-1 0-0 2. Totals: 13-46 10-13 39.
Pierce (21-4): Hailey Race 0-3 2-3 2, Casey Sutherland 1-10 6-10 8, Shelby Bretschneider 6-12 1-4 13, Sidney Zimmerer 1-5 0-0 2, Jaci Brahmer 2-8 1-5 5, Kate Asmus 1-3 0-0 2, Carly Sutherland 1-5 2-2 5. Totals: 14-56 12-24 37.