In the two games of the regular season that New Berlin Eisenhower and Pius XI split on their way to the Woodland Conference West Division co-championship this season, the 3-point shot played a large role for the Lady Popes' offensively.
Although the stats might not show it, the Lions made a defensive adjustment in the WIAA Sectional Championship on Saturday night at Brookfield Central.
The Lady Popes had five 3-pointers against Eisenhower in their 39-34 win in the first game of the season. Then they had seven in their second meeting, but lost a 43-41 thriller to Ike the second time around. So if the Lions were to win, statistics say Eisenhower should make sure Pius hits many 3-pointers.
Only kidding, I think.
So the Lady Popes drained eight treys in the WIAA Sectional Championship game on Saturday at Brookfield Central - the most in their three meetings - and lost, 51-44, sending the Lions to state for the third time in four years.
Expecting the 3s
The Lions knew what was coming.
"We knew we had to shut them off from the 3-point line because they are all good shooters," senior Jenny Weiland said. "We knew we had to close out strong. And we had to focus."
Senior forward Katie Lang talked about how much they respected their long-range shooting.
"We knew their strength was the 3-point line," she said. "We were really trying to just close down on them. They hit some shots at the end, so we knew the game wasn't even close to being over with."
But sophomore point guard Sammy Kozlowski said the Lions were ready for it.
"We knew where their shooters were," she added. "We knew that they could shoot. We just got out on them. We switched on everything. We were just prepared for it."
Veteran coach Gary Schmidt and his assistant Mike Hamilton, Ike's defensive guru, felt they would be better off forcing the Lady Popes to live or die from the 3-point arc.
"We played a little more gap defense; we thought we would put that in," Schmidt said. "We knew they liked to penetrate too. We were really edging out there."
And Eisenhower was able to do that because of the play of 6-foot-2 inch freshman Chelsea Brackmann.
"That's why we wanted to play Brackmann more to plug the middle up," Schmidt pointed out. "If you could plug the middle up with the 6-2 kid, we could extend a little. It worked pretty good.
Not as much time
The Lady Popes were still shooting from long range - actually longer than they normally would - but they weren't getting the time to do it.
"I liked the way our team closed out," Schmidt said. "They weren't getting those easy rocker steps and looking at the bucket. I thought we played our defensive plan to a T. I thought we made adjustments."
Three of Pius' first four baskets came from the arc, as senior captain Aaliyah Ramirez had two and outstanding sophomore Gabby Green drilled one. Ramirez then added one in the second period.
"The final tuning came from the midpoint of the first quarter toward the end," Schmidt said. "Then I thought from there we did what we wanted to accomplish."
From 4 minutes, 57 seconds of the second quarter until 2:42 left in the third period, Ashley Petroff had the only 3 for the Lady Popes. Ike was leading 36-29 by the time Petroff nailed two more 3s to close out Pius' scoring in the quarter, but Kozlowski's jump hook drive and a steal and a score by Weiland gave Ike a 40-34 lead after three.
Two baskets by Lang and a free throw by Brackmann increased the lead to nine, when the Lady Popes added two late desperation 3s in the final minutes before Erin Ganske and Weiland closed out the game from the free throw line.
"You don't stop a good team; hopefully you can slow them down," Schmidt said. "I thought we did a little bit."
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