SOUTH WAYNE – The season came to a too abrupt finish for the top-seeded and #2-ranked Black Hawk Warriors girls’ basketball team after falling 67-62 in overtime to #4-seed Fall River in a WIAA Division 5 regional final game held at Black Hawk High School on Saturday, Feb. 25.
The Lady Warriors (21-1 overall) were playing without freshman phenom Natalie Leuzinger, who was hurt in Friday’s semifinal game against Argyle and could not play on Saturday. The Pirates (20-5) took advantage of the absence of the Warriors’ top scorer, top rebounder and top defender to pull off the upset.
“Natalie obviously scores a lot for us, but where we really missed her the most was on defense and on the boards. She is one of our best post defenders and a key component of our press, and going the game without her in those roles made it tough,” admitted Black Hawk head coach Michael Flanagan. “Beyond that, you throw in the emotional stress of losing your top scorer and rebounder, and then trying to put the pieces back together in less than 24 hours. It leaves the team a little out of sorts. It will take time for the girls and us coaches to resolve the disappointment of seeing our season end too soon, but they will eventually look back and recognize this season as a very special one.”
The Pirates opened up a 29-21 in the first half and pushed the lead to double figures midway through the second half before the Warriors mounted a furious comeback to grab a 52-50 lead with 16 seconds remaining in regulation.
“To their credit, they are playing really well right now. They hit big shots when necessary, and they did a good job of breaking our press. In the second half, we had to change what we were doing defensively to counter their successes, and that allowed us to get back. We had multiple chances to win the game late, but it just didn’t work out. We are very proud of the girls for fighting and coming back in the face of adversity,” Flanagan said
Fall River’s Samantha Leisemann sent the game into overtime by sinking the game-tying basket with three second to go.
Maddy Huschitt gave Black Hawk its final lead of the night when she sank a 3-pointer with 1:42 to play in OT to put the hosts up 60-59, but the Pirates scored eight of the game’s final 10 points to take down the Warriors for the second season in a row in the regional final round of the tournament.
It was Black Hawk’s first loss of the season and their first loss at home since Feb. 12, 2016.
“It will take time for the girls and us coaches to resolve the disappointment of seeing our season end too soon, but they will eventually look back and recognize this season as a very special one. To go undefeated in the regular season and to win conference is no small feat, especially considering some of the non-conference opponents we faced,” replied Flanagan. “The girls exceeded expectations and proved many doubters wrong. More significantly, they formed a genuine family-like bond. We had all the potential for problems, with underclassmen getting major minutes and playing pronounced roles, but the girls put the team first. That is the thing I will personally remember most about this season.”
Hannah Butler and Huschitt stepped up in Leuzinger’s absence. Butler poured in a season-high 28 points and pulled down a season-high 15 rebounds to go along with four steals and three assists, while Huschitt scored a season-best 19 points and added three assists and three steals.
“(Hannah) truly left it all on the floor. Sometimes, she can be very passive offensively, but we could tell that she understood the need to step up to lift the team in Natalie’s absence,” Flanagan noted. “Maddy really elevated her game when Natalie went down, and she carried that over into the regional championship game. She is one of the toughest kids we have ever had in our program, and her gritty performance electrified the team in the Argyle game. On Saturday, she was one of the reasons we hung with Fall River the way that we did.”
Forward Sammy Lovelace, the team’s lone senior, chipped in with seven points and seven boards for the Warriors. Hannah Herbst contributed five points, four assists and four steals.
“We are so proud of Sammy. She really improved throughout the season and gave us some defense, shooting, and toughness that made the team better. More importantly, she took on a huge leadership role and guided our young players, staying positive and steady in all situations. The coaching staff especially appreciated her willingness to take coaching; it really accelerated her growth. We will all miss her next season,” said Flanagan.
Leisemann finished with 20 points and senior Kaycee Bull tallied 19 points for the Pirates, who will be looking for their third straight state appearance when they head to Evansville on Thursday to face Barneveld (17-8) in a sectional semifinal contest. The Golden Eagles have made four straight trips to the D5 state championship game.
At South Wayne, on Friday, Feb. 24, the Lady Warriors began the tournament by shooting down the #8-seeded Argyle Orioles, 57-22, in a D5 regional semifinal game.
It was Black Hawk’s third victory over the Orioles (9-15) this season and the second one in the past two weeks, but it came at as cost as freshman Natalie Leuzinger was injured in the first half and could not return to the game.
The Warriors held a 10-7 over the Orioles when the game was halted with 6:40 remaining in the opening half. The team regroup after watching one of their stars leave the court on a stretcher and closed the half on a 18-6 run to build up a 28-13 halftime lead.
“To come out after seeing Natalie taking off by an ambulance was tough on the girls, but once the girls got things rolling, our defensive pressure really gave Argyle’s young guards some difficulty,” said coach Flanagan.
Black Haw outscored the Orioles, 29-9, in the second half to run away for the 21st consecutive victory.
Butler recorded a game-high 16 points along with eight rebounds, five assists and four steals to lead the Warriors. Huschitt tallied 15 points, four steals and three assists, while Lovelace registered eight points and seven rebounds and Herbst added seven points and four steals.
Jena Saalsaa scored six points to lead the Orioles, who opened the playoffs with a 49-34 win over Randolph in Tuesday’s quarterfinal round.
WIAA D5 REGIONAL FINAL
Fall River……………… 29 23 15 – 67
Black Hawk…………… 21 31 10 – 62
Fall River – Tramburg 7, Bull 19, Van Gysel 7, Gregorio 6, Waterworth 4, Rozinski 4, Leisemann 20. Totals – 25 12-25 67.
Black Hawk – Brianna Hagen 3, Hannah Herbst 5, Hannah Butler 28, Maddy Huschitt 19, Sammy Lovelace 7. Totals – 21 15-21 62.
3-point goals– FR 5 (Tramburg 1, Bull 3, Van Gysel 1), BH 5 (Hagen 1, Butler 2, Huschitt 2). Total fouls– FR 17, BH 20. Fouled out– BH: Huschitt.
WIAA D5 REGIONAL SEMIFINAL
Argyle………………… 13 9 – 22
Black Hawk………….. 28 29 – 57
Argyle – Ostby 3, James 1, Je. Saalsaa 6, Ja. Saalsaa 2, Flanagan 4, Godfrey 4, Allison 2. Totals – 7 8-12 22.
Black Hawk – Brianna Hagen 1, Hannah Herbst 7, Natalie Leuzinger 3, Hannah Butler 16, Mia Jackson 2, Maddy Huschitt 15, Sammy Lovelace 8, Abby Argall 4, Sydney Delzer 1. Totals – 20 11-22 57.
3-point goals– A 0, BH 6 (Butler 3, Huschitt 2, Lovelace 1). Total fouls– A 17, BH 17. Fouled out– None.