DARLINGTON — Darlington’s three senior varsity team members capped Friday’s Senior Night celebration by lead the Lady Redbirds to their first conference title in 17 years.
The Redbirds avenged their only league loss of the season by defeating visiting Cuba City, 57-44, at DHS on Friday, Feb. 9, to take over sole possession of first-place in the SWAL girls’ basketball standings and lock up at least a share of the conference championship title for the first time since the 2000-01 season.
“It feels good. It was a long time coming,” said Darlington head coach Kelly Rose, who was on maternity leave when her Redbirds fell to the Cubans, 58-53, back on Jan. 9. “They deserve this. They have worked so hard every day and they showed they wanted it. They are dedicated to the cause. It started in the youth programs years ago. They had good youth coaches all the way from fourth grade on up. It’s really been a program in the making for many years now.”
The Redbirds (16-4 overall, 12-1 SWAL) never trailed in the first half, but found themselves in a dog-fight in the second half. After trading the lead with the Cubans (15-6, 11-2) six times over the first 12 minutes of the second half, the Redbirds regained the lead for good with just over five minutes remaining when senior Meghan Douglas knocked down the go-ahead basket which kicked off a 10-0 run by the ‘Birds that put them up 46-36 with exactly three minutes to play.
“We knew they were going to make adjustments at halftime. We just had to adjust to their adjustments and I think we did that. It got a little hairy at times, but the girls handled adversity down the stretch and finished it out,” remarked Rose.
The ‘Birds closed out the Cubans from the foul line, connecting on 7-of-12 free throw attempts over the final two minutes of play to seal the victory. Darlington finished 20-for-31 from the line for the game, including a 17-for-28 performance at the stripe in the second half.
Senior Chelsie Golackson went 4-for-6 at the line over the final 1:11 and finished with eight points, while Douglas scored five of her career-best eight points in the second half to aid the victory.
“That comes with experience. We’ve been working on that through the years. Now, we have an older team and I think our experience worked in our favor,” explained Rose.
Darlington came out firing over the Cubans’ zone defense in the first half, connecting on five 3-pointers in the stanza to shoot out to a 26-19 halftime lead.
The Cubans opened the second half on an 11-2 run to take their first lead of the night on a basket by Kiera Holzemer with 11:21 to play. The teams swapped the lead five times with the ‘Birds outscoring the Cubans 24-10 over the final nine minutes to pull away for their eighth straight win.
Junior Kaylee Meyers scored 10 of her game-high 16 points in the second half for the Redbirds. Sophomore Brenna McDonald came off the bench to match her career-high with 10 points, while junior Casey Glendenning scored six points off the bench for the ‘Birds.
“Our starters put in some good minutes and we got good productively off the bench tonight. It was a team victory for us,” said Rose.
Junior Elizabeth Misky netted 14 points and Holzemer finished with 13 to lead Cuba City, who dropped into a tie for second-place in the SWAL with Mineral Point (16-5, 11-2) who they face in their finale on Thursday.
Darlington can lock up the outright SWAL title in their finale at Iowa-Grant (4-15, 2-10) on Thursday, Feb. 15.
At Boscobel, on Tuesday, Feb. 6, guard Kaylee Meyers dropped in a game-high 24 points to lift the Lady Redbirds past the host Bulldogs, 54-45, in a SWAL affair.
Darlington opened up a 29-18 lead at the intermission, and held off the Bulldogs (14-6, 7-6) in the second half.
Senior Kennedy Rankin scored 11 points and junior Kathleen Mathias chipped in with six points for the ‘Birds.
Leah Wacker led Boscobel with 14 points. Alyssa Davis added 13 points and Treena Knowles netted 11 for the hosts.
Darlington’s non-conference game against Lancaster on Feb. 13, was cancelled in order to allow the Flying Arrows to make up a conference game that night. There will be no make-up game with the Arrows this season.
The WIAA Division 4 tournament is set to begin on Tuesday, Feb. 20. The Redbirds received the #2-seed and will have an opening round bye. The ‘Birds will hosts the winner of the quarterfinal game between #7-seed Wisconsin Heights (8-12) and #10-seed Luther (7-12) in a regional semifinal affair at DHS on Friday, Feb. 23, starting at 7 p.m.
Cuba City…………. 19 25 – 44
Darlington………… 26 31 – 57
Cuba City – Elizabeth Misky 14, Megan Hartl 4, Parker Kopp 2, Courtney Busch 5, Kiera Holzemer 13, Sophia Sander 2, Jaydn Reese 4. Totals – 15 9-17 44.
Darlington – Breena McDonald 10, Meghan Douglas 8, Casey Glendenning 6, Kathleen Mathias 3, Reagan Crist 3, Chelsie Golackson 8, Kennedy Rankin 3, Kaylee Meyers 16. Totals – 16 20-31 57.
3-point goals– CC 5 (Misky 2, Busch 1, Holzemer 1, Reese 1), D 5 (Douglas 1, Golackson 1, Rankin 1, Meyers 2). Total fouls– CC 19, D 13. Fouled out– CC: Reese.
Darlington…….. 29 25 – 54
Boscobel……… 18 27 – 45
Darlington – Meghan Douglas 4, Kathleen Mathias 6, Reagan Crist 4, Chelsie Golackson 5, Kennedy Rankin 11, Kaylee Meyers 21. Totals – na na-na 54.
Boscobel – Davis 13, Ernst 2, Beck 5, Wacker 14, Knowles 11. Totals – na na-na 45.
3-point goals– D 3 (Rankin 1, Meyers 2), IG 5 (Davis 1, Beck 1, Wacker 3). Total fouls– D 13, IG 16. Fouled out– None.