LA CROSSE — Shullsburg’s road to state was blocked by Bangor for the second straight season.
The #3-ranked Cardinals outscored the Lady Miners 22-5 over the final eight minutes to lock down their second consecutive state berth with a 55-51 victory in a WIAA Division 5 sectional final girls’ basketball game played at La Crosse Central High School on Saturday, March 3.
“Credit Bangor. They took advantage of some of our deficiencies we had down the stretch and they capitalized on them,” said Shullsburg head coach Nathan Russell.
With two of the state’s top defenders– Shullsburg senior center Brianna Leahy and Bangor senior center Emma Wittmershaus– leading the way, the two team’s battled it out up and down the court from the opening tip, swapping the lead five times in the first half until a late 7-0 scoring spurt thrust the Cardinals (24-3 overall) into a 23-19 lead.
Shullsburg sophomore Calli Jerry brought the Miners (21-6) back within two on a jumper with six seconds remaining in the half, however the Cardinals answered back with a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from senior Jaclynn Freit to take a 26-21 lead into the locker room at the intermission.
Leahy etched her name into the Shullsburg record books one last team in the first half when she eclipsed the school’s all-time scoring mark for girls’ and boys’ basketball when she sank a free throw at the 4:32 mark for her 1,442 career point. Christal Swigart () owned the previous record with 1,441 points.
“Bri is the single best basketball player I’ve ever coached. As good as she is as a scorer, she is an even better teammate and all-around contributor. She gave more to this team than I could ever ask for,” commented Russell. “I know she’d give all those points back if we could just change that final score.”
The Miners came into the second half like gangbusters, pouring in 11 of the first 13 points of the stanza to grab their largest lead of the game at 32-28. Senior Nicole Teutschmann, who buried three clutch 3-pointers in the first half to keep Shullsburg close, sank two more treys during the Miners’11-2 run, while Leahy knocked down a layup and a free throw to add to the lead.
Wittmershaus brought Bangor back into the lead with five straight points, but the Miners answered back with a basket by Leahy and another by senior Kindle Cook to regain the lead at 36-33 with 8:32 to play.
Things took a turn for the worst for Cook and the Miners just moments later when Cook went down hard to the floor after taking a charge on defense. Cook left the game with an injury and she was not even able to stay around to watch the end of the game as she soon left for the hospital.
Following the injury timeout, the Cardinals stole the Miners’ inbound pass and turned it into a quick basket to pull into a 39-36 lead just over seven minutes remaining.
Bangor extended its advantage to 46-37 with around two minutes to play, and then knocked down 7-of-8 free throw attempts over the final 1:23 to seal the victory and a return berth to Green Bay.
“I don’t think that I did a good enough job coaching the last five minutes. The kids let some things get to them and we never recovered from that,” said Russell. “We were playing really well and I think we had a real good chance until that injury happened. That took a lot of wind out of our sails. I probably should have called a timeout to gather our focus back on the game.”
Leahy drew a lot of the Cardinals’ attention throughout the game and was limited to just eight points, while freshman point guard Layla Alt– the team’s second-leading scorer during the season and during the playoffs– got into early foul trouble and was held to just five points.
“We knew they were really focusing on Bri and, if some of the other kids could step up, we would have an opportunity to win. I thought when those opportunities presented themselves the kids did a great job,” noted Russell. “It was unfortunate because Layla has probably been our best weapon on offense all through the playoffs, so to have her in foul trouble hurt us.”
Teutschmann picked up the scoring slack by sinking five 3s on her way to a team-high 15 points. Jerry chipped in with five points– all in the first half– while sophomore Reva Spillane hit a basket in each half to provide four points.
“I’m really proud of this group. Calli stepped up. Reva hit some big shots, and so did Kindle. Across the board, our kids stepped up, whether it was on offense or defense, to give us a spark,” Russell added.
Wittmershaus, a UW-Milwaukee recruit, finished with a game-high 23 points to lead the Cardinals, who received the #2-seed in the D5 state field and will face #3-seed Clayton (24-3) in a state semifinal game at the Resch Center on Friday, March 9, at 10:45 a.m.
Top-ranked and top-seeded Black Hawk (27-0) will meet Newman Catholic in the other D5 state semifinal game on Friday at 9:05 a.m. The D5 championship game will be held on Saturday, March 10, at 11:05 a.m.
Freit netted nine points and junior Ashlie Lockington scored seven for Bangor
Wrapped up their prep careers for the Miners were seniors Faith Ubersox, Kindle Cook, Nicole Teutschmann and Brianna Leahy.
“This group of seniors is leaving as one of the most decorated group that we’ve ever had in Shullsburg. They are leaving a legacy that will benefit our program for years to come. I couldn’t be more proud of this group,” remarked Russell.
The four seniors amassed 64 wins, three conference titles, two regional titles and two sectional final appearances playing together on varsity over the past three season, while Leahy– who played on the Ben-Shulls co-op varsity team as a freshman– ends her career with a school record 85 victories in her 103 career games.
At Prairie du Chien, on Thursday, March 1, the Lady Miners earned their fourth straight playoff victory over a Six Rivers West foe by taking down the River Ridge Timberwolves, 36-34, in a D5 sectional semifinal slugfest.
Freshman guard Layla Alt scored 10 of her game-high 18 points in the second half to help keep the Timberwolves (21-5) at bay.
“Layla has been our best player in the playoffs bar none,” said Coach Russell. “She’s a kid who is going to keep getting better and better.”
Shullsburg hammered their way to a 21-16 halftime lead behind eight points from Alt, six points from Nicole Teutschmann and four points Brianna Leahy.
“We knew it was going to be a battle. I think both teams had a lot of jitters in the second half,” replied Russell. “I was really proud of our kids for pulling through. Defensively, we had probably our best game of the playoffs, and maybe our best effort of the entire year.”
The T’Wolves got as close as two on a couple of occasions in the second half, but the Miners never let go of the lead as they held on for their sixth consecutive win while halting River Ridge’s eight-game winning streak.
The two SRW foes split their game during the regular season.
Leahy finished with six points, 16 rebounds and nine blocked shots.
Sophomore Skylar White scored a team-high 16 points for the ‘Wolves.
WIAA DIVISION 5 SECTIONAL FINAL
Shullsburg……. 21 20 – 41
Bangor………… 26 29 – 55
Shullsburg – Faith Ubersox 1, Kindle Cook 2, Kayla Klotz 1, Reva Spillane 4, Calli Jerry 5, Nicole Teutschmann 15, Brianna Leahy 8, Layla Alt 5. Totals – 14 7-14 41.
Bangor – Olson 1, Hundt 5, Lockington 7, Fortier 2, Nicolai 4, Wittmershaus 23, Freit 9, Schurhammer 2, Oesterle 2. Totals – 21 9-18 55.
3-point goals– S 6 (Jerry 1, Teutschmann 5), B 4 (Lockington 1. Wittmershaus 2, Freit 1). Total fouls– S 20, B 15. Fouled out– None.
WIAA DIVISION 5 SECTIONAL SEMIFINAL
Shullsburg……. 21 15 – 36
River Ridge…… 16 18 – 34
Shullsburg – Faith Ubersox 1, Kindle Cook 4, Kayla Klotz 1, Nicole Teutschmann 6, Brianna Leahy 6, Layla Alt 18. Totals – 11 11-20 36.
River Ridge – White 16, Langmeier 5, Herrick 7, Breuer 6. Totals – 14 6-12 34.
3-point goals– S 3 (Teutschmann 2, Alt 1), RR 0. Total fouls– S 13, RR 15. Fouled out– none.