New Berlin Eisenhower took a huge step toward earning another Woodland Conference championship, but there are still a couple of tasks to finish.
Freshman Chelsea Brackmann's clutch rebound basket on Friday at Pius XI, sparked the Lions to a thriller, 43-41, victory in a battle of two outstanding basketball teams.
That improved the Lions record to 18-2 overall and 14-1 in conference play. Eisenhower played Cudahy (8-12 overall, 7-9, third in the Woodland-East Division) on Monday and finishes the year at crosstown rival New Berlin West (13-8, 11-5, fourth in West) on Thursday.
Pius XI (18-3, 15-1) met third-place Pewaukee (18-3, 13-3) on Wednesday (Feb. 20). Both teams have to win out to earn the title or a share of the title.
Getting back to Friday's win, the Lady Popes went on a 12-4 run to open the final quarter to take their biggest lead of the night at 41-37, as things looked bleak for the Lions.
But senior Jenny Weiland scored on a drive with 3 minutes and 4 seconds left in the game, only to see Pius coach Scott Herrick put his team in a delay offense.
Senior Katie Lang fouled Vivevca Nwagbaraocha with 1:43 to play and the junior forward missed the front end of a 1-and-1.
Weiland scored on another drive to tie the score at 41 with 1:22 to play and then Pius' senior captain Aliyah Ramirez missed a shot and Katie Lang grabbed the rebound.
Ike ran the clock down to 9.7 seconds when coach Gary Schmidt called timeout, but then when both teams came back on the court, Herrick called time out when he saw how the Lions lined up.
Ike's Sam Kozlowski then drove the right side of the lane as the clock ticked down, missed the shot, but the 6-foot-2-inch Brackmann grabbed the rebound and tossed the ball off the backboard and through the basket for the score.
Brackmann never knew her shot when in.
"When I saw it go off, I jumped as high as I could, got the rebound and put it back in. But I didn't know I made the basket until I heard the crowd roar."
She was fouled, missed the shot with 1.2 seconds left, but Erin Ganske grabbed the rebound as time ran out.
Both teams played great defense in the first quarter as Ike led, 6-3. Eisenhower opened the second quarter with a 6-0 run and a 12-3 lead before Dallas Chladek converted an old-fashioned 3-point play to break a scoreless streak of just over seven minutes. Free throws by Ganzke (1) and Weiland (2) and a 3-point shot by Chladek cut the lead to 15-9 at halftime.
Both teams then exploded in the third quarter, with Pius having a 20-18 advantage as Ramirez had three 3-pointers while Kozlowski had seven points and Brackmann five for Ike.
"We have watched a lot of film of Pius," Schmidt said. "We told the girls that the third quarter was their best quarter."
The Lady Popes kept coming close, but couldn't surpass the Lions.
"Every time we scored, they answered back," Herrick said of the Eisenhower.
Outstanding sophomore Gabby Green, the game's top scorer with 14 points, sank two free throws to give Pius their first lead at 29-28 with 2:22 left in the third, but Brackmann then closed out the quarter with five straight points. She scored on a rebound and then took a perfect pass from Ganzke, scored, was fouled and created for a 33-29 lead going into the final period.
It was a sign of things to come.
Weiland, who was held to three points in the first half, took over the game in the fourth quarter, scoring all eight of Eisenhower's points before Brackmann's game-winner. She finished with 11, while Kozlowski, a former Lady Pope, led the way with 12.
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