BARABOO – After defeating the #1-seed in their regional bracket on the way to a regional title and then knocking off the defending Division 4 state champions for the program’s first-ever sectional victory, all that stood between Darlington and a trip to the state tournament was #1-ranked and unbeaten Aquinas.
The Lady Redbirds (18-8 overall) gave it their best shot, but in the end the Blugolds (26-0) would not be stopped on their quest for a state title as they halted Darlington’s Cinderella run with a 64-40 victory in a WIAA Division 4 sectional final girls’ basketball game at Baraboo High School on Saturday, March 4.
“We left a lot on the floor. We hustled and did the best we could,” said Darlington head coach Kelly Rose. “I’m proud to be a part of this. These girls got us this far. We exceeded any expectations we had at the beginning of the season.”
Darlington started off aggressive and got Aquinas into a bit of foul trouble early on as the lead see-sawed between the two teams five times in the opening half.
The ‘Birds took their largest lead of the game at 19-13 on a basket by junior Kennedy Rankin with 8:30 remaining in the first half, and they were still ahead by a score of 25-20 following back-to-back baskets by sophomore Kathleen Mathias and K. Rankin with four minutes to play.
However, the Lady Blugolds closed the period on an 11-2 scoring run to open up a 31-27 halftime lead and the ‘Birds would never get it back.
“I’m proud of the way we played with them in the first half. We gave them one heck of a battle,” Rose commented. “They got their momentum going late in the half and they kept that momentum. They transitioned into their zone defense and that got us out of our element. We needed to get our composure back (early in the second half) and we struggled to do that.”
Aquinas stormed out of the intermission and built up a 43-31 advantage just six minutes into the second half thanks to back-to-back 3-point baskets by junior guards Madessa Collins and Whittni Rezin.
The Redbirds got no closer than 11 the rest of the way as the Blugolds went 11-for-17 from the free throw stripe in the final 10 minutes to secure their school’s first-ever WIAA state tournament berth.
Mathias scored nine of her team-high 11 points in the first half to lead the Redbirds, who had won five straight games and 12 of the last 14 contests before Saturday’s loss.
Senior Callie Norton followed with seven points, while K. Rankin and sophomore Bethany McDonald chipped in with six points apiece.
Collins finished with a game-high 19 points to lead Aquinas. Freshman Lexi Donarski added 13 points for the Blugolds, who won back-to-back WISAA titles in 1996 and 1997.
Playing in their final prep basketball game at Darlington were seniors Callie Norton, Lacie Smith, Sadie Fitzsimons, Taryn Rankin, Reagan Roelli and Hannah Kelly.
“I’m going to miss them terribly. They are a great group of girls who have worked hard to get to this point. I don’t use the word love very lightly, but after the game I shared that I love them. They’ve been great and have been like family to me” said Rose about the seniors.
At Monroe, on Thursday, March 2, the Lady Redbirds made a bit of history– and assured that there would be a new Division 4 state champion this season– by knocking off the #10-ranked Mineral Point Pointers, 52-48, in sectional semifinal action for the program’s first-ever sectional victory.
It was the second straight win over the Pointers (19-6) for the Lady Redbirds, who won the season series against the SWAL co-champions.
The ‘Birds trailed 24-21 at the half and were down 30-23 just minutes into the second half, but they used a 17-5 scoring run to grab a 40-35 lead with 7:50 to play.
The Pointers cut the gap to 50-48 with 43 seconds to play, but the ‘Birds were able to hit enough free throws down the stretch to put the win away.
“Mineral Point is a very talented team, and we proved we can compete with good teams,” stated Coach Rose. “This was another confidence booster for the girls and another game I want them to remember. It’s going to be a memory they have for the rest of their lives.”
Kennedy Rankin tallied 11 points and five rebounds for the Redbirds. Sadie Fitzsimons and Kaylee Meyers netted nine points apiece, while Taryn Rankin filled the stat book with six points, six rebounds, three blocked shots and three steals.
Callie Norton added six points and Kathleen Mathias scored five for the ‘Birds.
Mineral Point senior and UW-Milwaukee recruit Sydney Staver poured in a game-high 18 points. Sophomore Mara Aschliman added 10 for the Pointers.
WIAA D4 SECTIONAL FINAL
Aquinas…………… 31 33 – 64
Darlington………… 27 13 – 40
Aquinas – Peterson 4, Reuteman 6, Bohr 4, Donarski 13, Rezin 8, Collins 19, Steiner 9, Miller 1. Totals – 21 17-28 64.
Darlington – Callie Norton 7, Sadie Fitzsimons 5, Bethany McDonald 6, Kathleen Mathias 11, Kennedy Rankin 6, Kaylee Meyers 5. Totals – 14 10-14 40.
3-point goals– A 5 (Peterson 1, Rezin 2, Collins 2), D 2 (Fitzsimons 1, McDonald 1). Total fouls– A 15, D 21. Fouled out– D: Mathias.
WIAA D4 REGIONAL SEMIFINAL
Darlington…………. 21 31 – 52
Mineral Point……… 24 24 – 48
Darlington – Callie Norton 6, Sadie Fitzsimons 9, Bethany McDonald 2, Kathleen Mathias 5, Taryn Rankin 6, Meghan Douglas 2, Kennedy Rankin 11, Kaylee Meyers 9, Chelsie Golackson 2. Totals – 23 3-13 52.
Mineral Point – Staver 18, Aschliman 10, Chubb 1, James 2, Johnson 5, Kruser 1, Reichling 6, Bossert 5. Totals – 17 9-17 48.
3-point goals– D 3 (Fitzsimons 2, Meyers 1), MP 5 (Staver 1, Aschliman 2, Johnson 1, Bossert 1). Total fouls– D 15, MP 16. Fouled out– None.