SHULLSBURG – Shullsburg girls’ basketball coach Nathan Russell has plenty of memorable games on his eight-year coaching resume, but none may be more memorable– or personally satisfying– than Thursday’s victory over Potosi.
Not only was he impressed by the way his young Lady Miners slowed down the high-scoring, #8-ranked Potosi Chieftains to take over sole possession of first-place of the Six Rivers West and remain unbeaten on the season with a 71-50 victory, he was also impressed that they did it despite having one of the top players in the conference on the bench with foul trouble most the night.
“To have Brianna (Leahy) sitting on the bench for almost the entire game and have them turn in this type of performance is one of the most memorable games of my coaching career,” commented Russell. “This is a group who has prepared all summer for this. We knew they had the skills. They just had to have the belief. At times, it was a stretch, but at other times I think they rose to the occasion. I’m really proud of these girls for stepping up.”
The Chieftains came into the night averaging 75 points per game, however they would find points a lot tougher to come by in this game as the Miners did an excellent job handling their full-court pressure and remaining patient on offense until a good shot came open.
After Potosi grabbed its only lead of the night at 4-3 on back-to-back baskets by Abby Kaiser and Taylor Bloyer early in the opening half, the Miners (7-0 overall, 2-0 SRW) answered back with seven unanswered points to grab a 10-4 lead and they never trailed again.
The Chieftains (6-2, 3-1) closed within a point at 14-13 on a 3-pointer by Maddie Hawes with 10:37 to play in first half, but the Miners used a 14-3 run to open up a 28-16 advantage and Potosi never got closer than three possessions the rest of the way.
Shullsburg led 33-24 at the half on the strength of six 3-pointers. Junior guard McKailah Strang hit three of those treys, including two during their key run; while sophomore guard Nicole Teutschmann sank two 3s and junior guard Hattie Rennert added another.
“Not only were the six 3-pointers key, but our shooting percentage was also very good. We had a number of different kids hit 3s, which is something we had to have. Potosi ran a different zone than we’ve seen before because of the way they were packing the lane. Our shooting got them out of that early,” explained Russell.
Potosi’s dribble-drive– led by senior point guard Maddie Hawes– was very effective in the first half, but the Miners defended it well in the second half.
“Late in the first half we started making the adjustments to their penetration, and we carried it over into the second half,” Russeel said.
A technical foul on Potosi allowed the Miners to extend their lead from nine to 13 early in the second half.
Potosi got back within 8 at 39-31 on a 3-pointer by Hawes with 14:16 remaining, but Rennert hit back-to-back 3s over the next minute to keep momentum tilting in Shullsburg’s favor.
When Leahy went to the bench with her fourth foul with 12:40 remaining in the game, it left the door open for the Chieftains to rally however they could not take advantage of her absence as the Miners used a 9-0 run to push the lead out 56-38 with just over 6 minutes remaining and they coasted in from there.
“Our defensive effort, especially in the second half, was tremendous. We really clogged up the lane and limited them to just one shot most times,” noted Russell.
Rennert and senior forward Paige Hauser picked up the offensive slack with the Miners’ leading scorer on the bench for most of the second half, combining for 31 of the team’s 38 points in the second half. Rennert scored 18 of her game-high 23 points in the second half, while Hauser added 11 of her 13 points in the second half as well.
Strang (11 points) and Cora Holland (8 points) each had season-high outputs as well for the Miners in this game.
Hauser pulled down 10 rebounds for a double-double, while Rennert added three assists and two steals and Holland chipped in with four assists. Leahy tallied seven points, six rebounds and four blocked shots in limited action.
Hawes scored 12 of her 17 points in the second half including two of Potosi’s four 3-pointers in that half. Kaiser added 11 points for the Chieftains.
Each team had 15 2-point FGs, but the Miners hit nine 3s compared to Potosi’s five 3s and the Miners went 14-for-24 at the foul line compared to Potosi’s 5-for-12 effort. Shullsburg shot 11-for-19 at the line in the second half.
The Benton/Shullsburg co-op may be no more, but that didn’t stop Benton and Shullsburg from teaming up to win the 2015 Pearl City Tournament last week.
When the two teams separated following last season, they had to find ways to fill out their schedules and one of the ways they found as to take two games each at the annual girls’ basketball showcase across the border.
Shullsburg did its part by posting victories over Dakota, 65-37, on Saturday, Dec. 12, and host Pearl City, 51-44, on Monday, Dec. 14, while Benton closed out pool play with a 73-33 rout of Orangeville on Tuesday, Dec. 15, and then the Lady Zephyrs (7-2 overall) secured the tournament title for both themselves and the Miners with a 69-51 victory over Aquin on Friday, Dec. 18.
“We got in this weird format as both schools were scrambling to find games after the conference shut our co-op down. It was difficult for our players to understand when we initially explained the situation to them. Once we looked at it as just two non-conference games, the players understood better,” said Coach Nathan Russell.
“There was some tension for both sides to get the job done in order to get the other team a share of the title because we had to rely on each other. But both sides had confidence in each other in getting the job done.”
Benton head coach Lisa Lawrence agreed the situation was a bit weird, but she was happy the teams could join together once more to get the job done.
“Winning the Pearl City tournament was definitely a unique experience. Shullsburg was able to set the stage in game one and game two, which led to Benton making the trip in the next two games to secure the championship,” said Benton head coach Lisa Lawrence. “It was an odd set up, but it really showed how adverse our girls have become and are getting more experience at adjusting to the changes. It was neat to have a few Shullsburg players there on Friday night, as well as some Shullsburg parents and Coach Russell.”
Sophomore center Brianna Leahy was selected to the All-Tournament Team for the Miners after totaling 35 points, 22 rebounds, 11 blocked shots, five assists and two steals in their two games.
Next up for Shullsburg is a non-conference game at Darlington on Monday, Jan. 4, at 7:30 p.m.
Potosi………. 24 26 – 50
Shullsburg… 33 38 – 71
Potosi – Kaiser 11, Hawes 17, Bloyer 5, Horner 1, Langkamp 2, Jantzen 2, Gibson 9, Udelhoven 3. Totals – 20 5-12 50.
Shullsburg – Kindle Cook 3, McKailah Strang 11, Hattie Rennert 23, Paige Hauser 13, Nicole Teutschmann 6, Brianna Leahy 7, Cora Holland 8. Totals – 24 14-24 71.
3-point goals– P 5 (Hawes 3, Gibson 1, Udelhoven 1), S 9 (Strang 3, Rennert 4, Teutschmann 2). Total fouls– P na, S 14. Fouled Out– P: Kaiser, Bloyer, Lankamp; S: Leahy.