SOUTH WAYNE – The members of Black Hawk’s girls’ basketball team may be too young to have Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” in their iPods; but, after Saturday’s thrilling comeback in the regional championship game, the Warriors may want to adopt that classic rock tune as their team’s theme song.
The Lady Warriors (22-2 overall) never stopped believing– even when faced with a 14-point deficit early in the second half– as they mounted an amazing comeback over the final 14 and a half minutes of the game to cool off the #9-ranked Randolph Rockets, 43-30, in a WIAA Division 5 regional final game at BHHS on Saturday, March 10.
“The kids in that locker room at halftime just believed in themselves and they refused to lose. I’m proud of them,” said Black Hawk head coach Mike Flanagan after his team secured the program’s sixth consecutive regional championship title. “They stayed confident and stayed the course.”
The Warriors’ confidence could have easily waned after a rough opening half that saw the hosts connect on just 5 of their 31 shots from the field to fall behind the Lady Rockets (19-6) at the intermission, 21-12.
“We couldn’t have asked for anything better in terms of opportunities in the first half. We just didn’t finish,” noted Flanagan. “If this game goes the other direction, you have to live with the fact that you had multiple opportunities that you left unfinished. We were fortunate enough that we got some of those opportunities to fall in the second half.”
All seemed lost for Black Hawk early in the third quarter when senior guard Myriel Werner quieted the home crowd by swishing a 3-pointer to extend the Rockets’ lead to 26-12.
Instead, all Werner’s shot did was wake up the Warriors, especially sophomore guard Jen Wellnitz who poured in 17 of her game-high 23 points during the hosts’ amazing 31-4 run to close the game.
Wellnitz answered Werner’s shot with a basket of her own to kick off the rally with 6:25 to play in the third quarter, then she added a 3-pointer and a layup to bring the deficit under 10 midway through the period.
Treys by senior Katie Powers and Wellnitz trimmed the gap to four with 1:23 remaining in the third, and junior Abby Schiferl came off the bench to bury a huge jumper with under a minute to go in the stanza to pull the Warriors within two at 29-27.
“We got active on defense and got them on their heels. You could see (Randolph was) a little bit frantic. They were feeling the tide starting to turn and they couldn’t get it back in their direction,” Flanagan stated.
The Rockets, who had beaten Black Hawk by a score of 56-43 in a non-conference game at Randolph just six weeks earlier, misfired on four of their final five shots in the third quarter and were 0-of-11 from the field in the fourth quarter.
Senior forward Kayla Meier, who had her struggles shooting the ball in the first half, hit back-to-back shots in the lane early in the fourth quarter to put the Warriors on top to stay at 32-29 with 5:51 to play.
“I’m happy for Kayla. She’s got to listen to the people in the crowd get frustrated when she missed some of those shots in the first half. What a great way to redeem herself,” said Flanagan.
Meier added two more baskets in the final four minutes of play to help the hosts end the game with 11 unanswered points, while Wellnitz added seven points and an assist during that same period, including a 5-for-6 performance from the foul line over the final two minutes of the game to seal the Warriors’ 35th consecutive home victory and the sixth overall victory in a row.
“Our defense stepped up and made the difference in the end. We made it difficult for them to score. Unlike the first time we played them, we were able to control the tempo,” Flanagan explained. “We didn’t make any adjustments to the Xs and Os at halftime. We just challenged them to believe and we challenged them to get after it on the defensive end. Offensively, we told them to keep doing what they were doing because we knew the shots were going to start falling.”
Wellnitz pulled down 12 rebounds to go along with her 23 points to record a double-double for the Warriors.
Meier chipped in with 10 points, and senior Kate Quinn added five points.
Werner, who torched the Warriors for 27 points in Randolph’s win over Black Hawk back on Jan. 28, was limited to just 11 points in Saturday’s game. Junior Carley Reuter followed with seven points for the Rockets.
“This is a tradition we have built here. Winning the regional never stops being special because you realize how few opportunities most teams get to have that experience. For us to do it six times, it’s surreal. You cherish the moment,” Flanagan admitted. “We’re just happy we’re still playing basketball.”
Black Hawk advances to sectionals for the sixth year in a row, and the Warriors have a familiar foe waiting for them there in Six Rivers East rival Barneveld (22-3), who also won a regional title with a 58-31 victory over Fall River on Saturday night.
The two teams shared the SRE title this season after splitting the season series with each notching a win on their home course during the span of a week in February. This time around, the teams meet on a neutral court so anything could happen.
“It gets harder. We know how that series has gone this year. It’s a dead split. On that neutral floor, it will be interesting, especially since each team had their way on their home floor,” noted Flanagan. “It’s going to be about finding ways to capitalize early.”
The WIAA has moved Thursday’s sectional semifinal game to Monroe High School. Tip-off is still scheduled for 7 p.m.
The winner of that game advances to the sectional final at Fort Atkinson High School on Saturday, March 17, to take on the winner of the game between Heritage Christian (20-4) and Catholic Central (11-12) with a state berth on the line. Tip-off for Saturday’s game is scheduled for 4 p.m.
At South Wayne, on Friday, March 9, forward Kayla Meier netted a game-high 14 points and guard Jen Wellnitz recorded a double-double with 11 points and 13 rebounds to lead the Lady Warriors over Rio, 44-34, in a D-5 regional semifinal game.
Black Hawk led 9-2 after one quarter of play and build their lead up to 20 points over the next two quarters by outscoring the Vikings 14-7 in the second period and 14-8 in the third to open up 37-17 advantage.
The Vikings (15-9) put a scare into the Warriors in the fourth quarter by outscoring the hosts 17-7 to slice the deficit in half.
Katie Power chipped in with eight points and senior Chaesta Shager added seven for the Warriors. Hansena Vangen led Rio with 12 points.
At South Wayne, on Tuesday, March 6, the Lady Warriors opened the 2012 playoffs with a bang, outscoring Green Lake 21-2 in the first quarter to roll to a 49-33 victory over the #16-seeded Lakers in regional quarterfinal action.
Ten players scored for the Warriors led by Katie Powers with a game-high nine points. Kate Quinn added seven, while Abby Schiferl and Kayla Meier tallied six apiece for the hosts.
Callista DeCramer and Elizabeth Karlovich each scored eight points to pace the Lakers.
WIAA D5 REGIONAL FINAL
Randolph....… 11 10 8 1 - 30
Black Hawk…. 4 8 15 16 - 43
Leading Scorers: Jen Wellnitz 23, Kayla Meier 10, Kate Quinn 5, Katie Powers 3, Abby Schirferl 2.
WIAA D5 REGIONAL SEMIFINAL
Rio......…..…… 4 8 9 5 - 26
Black Hawk…. 9 4 4 16 - 33
Leading Scorers: Kayla Meier 14, Jen Wellnitz 11, Katie Powers 8, Chaesta Shager 7, Kate Quinn 3, Michelle Flanagan 1.
WIAA D5 REGIONAL QUARTERFINAL
Green Lake..... 2 7 11 13 - 33
Black Hawk…. 21 8 13 7 - 49
Leading Scorers: Katie Powers 9, Kate Quinn 7, Kayla Meier 6, Abby Schirferl 6, Chaesta Shager 5, Jen Wellnitz 4, Michelle Flanagan 4, Mikayla Sigafus 4, Olivia Holland 2, Kelly Neuenschwander 2.