CASSVILLE – Instead of wallowing in the past, the Shullsburg Miners girls’ basketball team got down to work and made a little history this season.
The #8-ranked Lady Miners locked up at least a share of the Six Rivers West championship after holding on to defeat the host Cassville Comets, 51-49, at CHS on Friday, Feb. 12.
It is the first conference title for Shullsburg without Benton since 1996 and the third title in four seasons for Coach Nathan Russell, who led the co-op to titles in 2012-13 and 2014-15.
“This is a special group of players. I have said repeatedly that they have matured and improved more than any team that I have ever coached. These ladies were on a mission to prove people wrong since last spring and I couldn’t be more proud of their effort and accomplishment. They are the true testament to getting in the gym over the summer results in great things on the court,” said Russell.
The Miners (18-3 overall, 9-2 SRW) held a slim 29-28 lead over the Comets (10-10, 3-8) at the break, and stayed on top by outscoring the hosts 22-21 in the second half. Shullsburg hit one more 3-pointer than the Comets, 6-5,and went 9-for-12 at the foul line compared to Cassville’s 4-for-10 effort to eke out the conference-clinching victory.
“No matter the type of team Cassville has or we have, we always struggle in that gym since I have been here. Credit Cassville for battling and making us earn the victory,” Russell stated.
Sophomore center Brianna Leahy led a balanced Shullsburg attack with 12 points. Junior guard McKailah Strang sank three 3s on her way to nine points, while junior guards Hattie Rennert and Cora Holland chipped in with eight points apiece. Fellow junior Nicole Teutschmann hit two 3s to finish with six points.
Andea Okey dropped in four treys on her way to a game-high 25 points to lead the Comets.
Shullsburg can clinch the Six Rivers West outright when they host Belmont (11-9, 5-6) in their league and regular season finale on Thursday, Feb. 18.
At Shullsburg, on Tuesday, Feb. 9, the Lady Miners took over sole possession of first-place in the Six Rivers West by knocking off co-leader River Ridge, 42-41, in a defensive battle.
It was the first time since 2000 that Shullsburg alone defeated River Ridge, ending a 24-game losing streak to the Timberwolves. Shullsburg/Benton went 5-3 against the T’Wolves in the previous four seasons.
Shullsburg used an early 10-2 run to grab an 11-4 lead and they took a 16-11 advantage into the locker room at the half.
“It was the best defensive half we’ve played all season,” noted Coach Nathan Russell. “I think we left some of that defense in the locker room at halftime. Credit River Ridge for making the adjustments.”
The Miners built up a quick 20-11 advantage early in second half following a putback by Cora Holland, but the hosts got in a bit of foul trouble with Paige Hauser getting her third foul and Brianna Leahy her second just two minutes into half.
The ‘Wolves took advantage by getting the ball inside and quickly closed the gap to 24-23. A three-pointer by Hattie Rennert with 11:07 to play took a bit of steam out of the RR rally.
Shullsburg built the lead back up to 35-28 with 6:29 to play, but the ‘Wolves rallied once more reeling off nine unanswered points to grab a 37-35 lead.
Amber Patterson tied the game at 35 all on a 3-point play with 4:43 to play and she added a basket at the 4:03 mark to give the guests their first lead since 2-1.
Rennert got the lead right back for the Miners on a steal and layup with 1:39 remaining. After forcing a tie-up on RR’s next possession, Rennert hit two free throws with :32.2 to go to make it 42-39.
Rachael Herrick got off a 3-point attempt over Rennert’s out-stretched hand with under 10 seconds to play, but the shot was well off the mark. Leahy gathered in the rebound in traffic, but was called for a double dribble with :04.6 remaining.
After a timeout, Bridgette Myers got the inbound and drove right the basket with little resistance from the Shullsburg defense. She sank a layup just before the buzzer sounded to leave Shullsburg ahead 42-41.
“It’s fun to be in games like this. I’m just happy we came out on the right side of things,” said Russell. “I was really proud of the girls tonight. I was happy we could go to the line tonight and finish.”
Leahy scored 11 of her game-high 18 points in the first half to lead the Miners, and Rennert tallied 12 of her 17 points in the second half to help secure the victory.
Leahy (6-for-7), Rennert (8-for-9) and Paige Hauser (3-for-4) combined to go 17-for-20 at the foul line on the night.
Leahy added 10 rebounds for a double-double and blocked four shots, while Rennert chipped in with six rebounds, six steals and three assists.
Patterson scored 17 points to lead the Wolves. Myers finished with 11 points, and that final basket pushed her over the 1,000-point mark for her career.
At Shullsburg, on Thursday, Feb. 11, Brianna Leahy registered her second triple-double of the season, pouring in a game-high 24 points, pulling down a team-high 14 points and blocking 10 shots to lead the Lady Miners to a 57-44 non-conference victory over the Wauzeka-Steuben Hornets (9-10).
McKailah Strang netted four 3-pointers to match her season-high with 13 points and she handed out six assists for the Miners. Nicole Teutschmann and Cora Holland added six points apiece, while Holland and Kindle Cook pulled down five boards each and Paige Hauser tallied two steals.
Two players recorded double-doubles for the Hornets with Molly Heisz notching 16 points and 11 rebounds and Kyle Zimmerman adding 13 points and 10 rebounds.
The WIAA Division 5 tournament will begin on Tuesday, Feb. 23. Shullsburg received the #2-seed and will host #15-seed North Crawford (3-14) in a regional quarterfinal game at SHS, starting at 7 p.m.
“Every year my minimum goals for a team are to win a conference championship and make it to a regional final. We have one of those goals accomplished and have put ourselves in a position to have a chance at the second one. We know that there are going to be a lot of quality teams to compete against, but having home court advantage throughout the regional round is something we have never had before and something we are going to try to take advantage of,” noted Russell. “Our section is loaded with a lot of quality throughout. North Crawford has been low on numbers this year, but is well coached and will play extremely hard. We expect a strong effort from them.”
The regional semifinal game will be held on Friday, Feb 26, also at 7 p.m. The regional final is scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 27, at 7 p.m.
Shullsburg…. 29 22 – 51
Cassville……. 28 21 – 49
Shullsburg – Faith Ubersox 2, Kindle Cook 4, McKailah Strang 9, Hattie Rennert 8, Paige Hauser 2, Nicole Teutschmann 6, Brianna Leahy 12, Cora Holland 8. Totals – 18 9-12 51.
Cassville – Nix 6, Ortiz 4, Okey 25, McMillian 9, Johll 5. Totals – 20 4-10 49.
3-point goals– S 6 (Strang 3, Rennert 1, Teutschmann 2), C 5 (Okey 4, Johll 1). Total fouls– S 9, C 12.
Shullsburg…. 11 30 – 41
River Ridge… 16 26 – 42
River Ridge – Myers 11, Sturmer 8, Schier 5, Patterson 17. Totals – 13 14-18 41.
Shullsburg – Faith Ubersox 2, Hattie Rennert 17, Paige Hauser 3, Brianna Leahy 18, Cora Holland 2. Totals – 12 17-21 42.
3-point goals– RR 1 (Schier 1), S 1 (Strang 1). Total fouls– RR 18, B 18. Fouled out– RR: Sturmer.
Wauzeka/Steuben… 17 27 – 44
Shullsburg………… 26 31 – 57
Wauzeka/Steuben – Zimmermann 13, Baures 6, Heisz 16, Atkinson 3, Groom 6. Totals – 16 7-11 44.
Shullsburg – McKailah Strang 13, Hattie Rennert 4, Paige Hauser 4, Nicole Teutschmann 6, Brianna Leahy 24, Cora Holland 6. Totals – 21 8-16 57.
3-point goals– WS 5 (Zimmermann 1, Heisz 3, Atkinson 1), S 7 (Strang 4, Teutschmann 2, Leahy 1). Total fouls– WS 20, S 16. Fouled out– WS: Groom.