SHULLSBURG — Belmont may have come up a bit short in Friday’s regional semifinal game at Shullsburg, but the Lady Braves went down fighting as they gave the top-seeded Lady Miners all they could handle for the final 34 minutes of play.
Unfortunately, it was the first two minutes of the game that made the difference as Shullsburg used a couple of early 3-pointers to build up a quick lead, and then fought off the #8-seeded Braves of the rest of the night to pull out a 60-47 victory in a WIAA Division 5 regional semifinal girls’ basketball game at SHS on Feb 23.
“I thought we played really well and can be proud of our effort at Shullsburg. Did we make some mistakes and could we have done some things better? Absolutely. But, the girls competed and kept the game within seven to 10 points the whole way,” said Belmont head coach Alan Seabrooke. “Shullsburg hit a few early threes and forced a few turnovers with their press, and that put us behind in the first two minutes. After that, we played even with them.”
Senior Briana Ernst got a personal milestone out of the way early as she reached the 1,000-point mark for her career on a free throw in the first half, and she continued to lead the offensive attack for the Braves (10-14 overall) by adding 19 more points to finish with a team-high 20 in Friday’s game.
“I am really happy for Bri that she got to 1,000 points. After the season last year at individual meetings, we talked about what it would take for her to get to 1,000 points. She knew it was in reach, but that it wouldn’t be easy. She needed to have a great year offensively. She made it a goal, and she had a fantastic offensive season,” Seabrooke noted.
The Miners (20-5) held a 29-20 lead at the intermission and continued to stay three or four possessions ahead of the Braves throughout the second half.
Ernst scored 14 of her 20 points in the second half to keep the Braves on the heels of the Miners, but they could never find a way to get close enough to rattle the Six Rivers West co-champions as their season came to a close with a 60-47 loss.
“Briana Ernst really did a nice job of attacking (Brianna) Leahy in the second half, and that opened up some shots for our shooters,” said Seabrooke.
Juniors Abby Althaus and Sadie Willborn each sank two 3-pointers to finish with eight and six points, respectively, for Belmont.
Playing in their final game for the Braves were Ernst and Kassandra Palzkill.
“Bri and Kassandra have been a big part of the varsity program since I got to Belmont. Bri has taken on many different roles throughout her career, playing all five positions on the floor and guarding all five positions. She has been a staple of our offense at the high post. She has been our leader in assists, steals, and blocks, as well as points this year. We are going to struggle to find someone that can fill her role,” explained Seabrooke.
“Kassandra has excelled at rebounding and looking for the high/low seal. Many of the points she has scored are because of hard work in those two areas. When she isn’t in the game, we lose our physicality and rebounding edge. She has been one of the most improved players in the program since I started. Both of these girls had a tremendous season, and can feel good about what they accomplished on the court. We will certainly miss their presence next year.”
Belmont advanced to Friday’s semifinal game by holding off #9-seeded Wauzeka-Steuben, 52-50, in a thrilling regional quarterfinal contest at BHS on Tuesday, Feb. 20.
The Braves held the lead for much of the game, but just could not put away the Hornets (14-9) until the closing seconds.
Sadie Willborn converted a rare four-point play with 2:40 remaining to snap a tie and put the Braves into the lead to stay at 50-46. Junior Elsie de Haan added a layup off a steal a short time later to extend the lead to 52-46, however the Hornets refuse to go away.
Free throws by Jordan Mormann and Erin Krachey brought the guests back within two at 52-50 with 1:24 remaining, and Mormann had a chance to bring the Hornets even when she got back to the line with just 2.7 seconds to go.
She missed both free throws to keep the Braves in the lead, and Althaus gathered in a clutch rebound with time running down to seal the victory for Belmont.
Ernst scored 14 of her game-high 19 points in the first half to lift the Braves out to a 30-26 halftime lead, while Willborn hit three 3-pointers and tallied all 10 of her points in the second half to help the Braves pull out the victory.
Palzkill added nine points and Kylie Crapp added six on a pair of treys for the Braves.
“We knew we had to play well against Wauzeka-Steuben. The key for us was the outside shooting from our guards. They did a good job of clogging up the lane and making it difficult to score inside. It was a great team win. We haven’t been in very many close games this year, so it was a fun game,” said Seabrooke.
Krachey finished with 18 points and Allison Oswald added 11 for the Hornets.
WIAA DIVISION 5 REGIONAL SEMIFINAL
Belmont……….. 20 27 – 47
Shullsburg……. 29 31 – 60
Belmont – Abby Althaus 8, Elsie de Haan 5, Nicole Knebel 2, Kassandra Palzkill 2, Briana Ernst 20, Kylie Crapp 4, Sadie Willborn 6. Totals – 18 7-11 47.
Shullsburg – Faith Ubersox 9, Kayla Klotz 2, Reva Spillane 2, Nicole Teutschmann 6, Brianna Leahy 25, Layla Alt 16. Totals – 22 12-27 60.
3-point goals– B 4 (Althaus 2, Willborn 2), S 4 (Ubersox 1, Teutschmann 2, Alt 1). Total fouls– B 18, S 13. Fouled out– B: Palzkill.
WIAA DIVISION 5 REGIONAL QUARTERFINAL
Wauzeka-Steuben… 26 24 – 50
Belmont…………….. 30 22 – 52
Wauzeka-Steuben – S. Krachey 4, R. Krachey 4, Oswald 11, E. Krachey 18, Mormann 7, Groom 6. Totals – 17 13-21 50.
Belmont – Abby Althaus 4, Elsie de Haan 2, Nicole Knebel 2, Kassandra Palzkill 9, Briana Ernst 19, Kylie Crapp 6, Sadie Willborn 10. Totals – 19 8-11 52.
3-point goals– WS 3 (E. Krachey 1, Groom 2), B 6 (Ernst 1, Crapp 2, Willborn 3). Total fouls– WS 15, B 16. Fouled out– B: Palzkill.