SOUTH WAYNE — With all the craziness, all the uncertainty and all the turmoil over the past year, the Black Hawk girls’ basketball team has held steadfast to one goal– getting back to state to claim the D5 crown that was denied them a year ago.
The #1-ranked and unbeaten Warriors achieved part of that goal by securing a state berth for a fourth straight season with a 55-39 victory over the #3-ranked Albany Comets in a WIAA Division 4 sectional final girls’ basketball game held at BHHS on Saturday, Feb. 20. Now, they are just two more wins away from completing their goal.
“We are very proud of this group of girls. They have endured the heartbreak of last season and persevered through this abnormal season with focus. They have earned all the success they have had, and we are very happy that they have extended their season to the state tournament again,” said head coach Michael Flanagan after guiding his Warriors to their 75th consecutive overall victory and 51st straight win on their home floor.
"We are just taking every opportunity as a blessing at this point. It was difficult for our girls and coaches to invest themselves as the disappointment from last year lingers, but they were bold enough to dream big. We are excited for this moment and will prepare as best we can.”
Black Hawk received the #1-seed in their WIAA D5 state bracket and will face #4-seeded and #9-ranked Three Lakes (19-5) in a semifinal game at the La Crosse Center on Thursday, Feb. 25, starting at 9:05 a.m.
The winner advances to face the winner of the other semifinal between #2-seeded and #5-ranked McDonell Catholic (12-3) and #3-seeded Assumption (14-8) in the D5 State Championship Game on Thursday evening at 7:05 p.m.
“McDonnell has had multiple good seasons in a row and always seem to be in the mix during the tournament. They feature a guard-heavy lineup and shoot well from the perimeter. Assumption brings good size to the mix and has played a tough schedule this season. They were not on people’s radar much early but have built their resume and reputation throughout the year. I know the least about Three Lakes, as they are so far from the area. Regardless of who we face, there will definitely be some challenges, as one should expect on the largest stage,” Flanagan stated.
In order to earn a return trip to state, Black Hawk (21-0 overall) had to take out Six Rivers East up-and-comer Albany (19-3) in Saturday’s sectional finale. The Warriors improved to 3-0 this season against the Comets and ran their winning streak against Albany to 31 straight games with a hard-fought 16-point victory.
The Warriors used a 12-2 scoring run to erase an early 3-2 deficit; and then, after the Comets closed back within two at 16-14, the hosts poured in 15 unanswered points to build up a 31-14 lead.
Albany was never closer than 14 the rest of the way as seniors Kaylee Marty (six points), Makayla Mau (six), Bailey Butler (five) and Macie Stauffacher (two) teamed up to score 19 of the Warriors’ 21 points in the second half to keep well in front of the Comets.
“Really, the game was kind of decided in the later phases of the first half. We were able to convert some shots, and we caught the Comets in a cold spell. The margin we built, which never exceeded 20 points, sustained us through some late runs throughout the second half,” commented Flanagan. “On a day we did not shoot as well as we normally do, it was defense and rebounding that played the biggest differences.”
Butler scored 15 of her game-high 20 points in the first half and finished the game with nine rebounds, five steals and four assists.
Marty pumped in 14 points and Stauffacher chipped in with eight, while Mau tallied six points, seven rebounds and five blocked shots in the win. Sophomore Tara Wellnitz led the team with 10 boards.
Junior Brianna Dahl scored 10 points and fellow junior Payton Wachholz added nine for the Comets, whose three losses all came to Black Hawk this season.
“Albany has a great young squad and a very good coaching staff. We knew that they would come in with a lot of energy,” noted Flanagan. “I want to congratulate Albany on a great season. They will be very tough next year since they bring back a large portion of this year’s roster.”
Top-seeded Black Hawk secured its spot in Saturday’s finale by routing the #4-seeded Almond-Bancroft, 68-30, in a D4 sectional semifinal affair in South Wayne on Thursday, Feb. 18.
The Warriors wasted no time getting started, turning a couple of turnovers into quick baskets by Butler and Marty for an early 6-0 lead.
The Eagles (15-10) closed the gap to 8-4 at the 13:21 mark, however the Warriors netted the game’s next 27 points to pull out to a 35-4 advantage on their stunned guests. Butler scored nine points during the run, while Marty dropped in seven and sophomore Raylin Peterson added six.
The Warriors held a 47-10 lead at the intermission and went on to outscore the Eagles, 21-20, in the second half while liberally substituting to work all their players into the game.
“We hoped to get out to an early lead and exert our will defensively, which we did pretty well,” said Flanagan. “We were able to widen the margin during the first half. In the second half, we got minutes and contributions across our lineup, which was big heading into a matchup with a deep Albany squad on Saturday.”
Butler led all scorers with 24 points and she filled her stat line with a team-high eight rebounds and seven steals to go along with four assists.
Marty followed with 15 points, six assists and four steals, while Peterson, Wellnitz and Mau scored six apiece. Wellnitz and freshman Kendra Haldiman pulled down five boards each for the Warriors.
Junior Carlee Lamb was the lone Eagle in double-digits with 10 points.
WIAA D5 SECTIONAL FINAL
Albany………. 18 21 – 39
Black Hawk… 34 21 – 55
Albany– Broughton 2, Dahl 10, Wachholz 9, Johnson 1, Durtschi 5, Briggs 4, Zurfluh 2, Flannery 6. Totals – 14 6-12 39.
Black Hawk – Bailey Butler 20, Raylin Peterson 3, Tara Wellnitz 4, Kaylee Marty 14, Macie Stauffacher 8, Makayla Mau 6. Totals – 19 13-16 55.
3-point goals– A 5 (Dahl 1, Wachholz 3, Durtschi 1), BH 4 (Butler 1, Marty 1, Stauffacher 2). Total fouls– A 14, BH 12. Fouled out– None.
WIAA D5 SECTIONAL SEMIFINAL
Almond-Bandcroft… 10 20 – 30
Black Hawk………… 47 21 – 68
Almond-Bandcroft – Meddaugh 3, Omernik 3, Lamb 10, Seymour 2, L. Dernbach 4, C. Dernbach 8. Totals – 9 8-15 30.
Black Hawk – Bailey Butler 24, Raylin Peterson 6, Tara Wellnitz 6, Tatum Baumgartner 4, Kaylee Marty 15, Macie Stauffacher 3, McKenzie Quinn 2, Makayla Mau 6, Kendra Haldiman 2. Totals – 27 6-11 68.
3-point goals– AB 4 (Omernik 1, Lamb 1, C. Dernbach 2), BH 8 (Butler 2, Peterson 1, Marty 2, Stauffacher 1, Mau 2). Total fouls– AB 13, BH 15. Fouled out– None.