For nine minutes of Friday’s WIAA Division 3 Regional Semifinal against Nekoosa, it looked like Platteville might not miss injured senior Julia Lawinger.
Then reality, and a terrible case of frigid shooting set in.
Lawinger, a four-year varsity starter, tore the ACL in her left knee in Platteville’s regular season finale at Richland Center on Feb. 14. The Hillmen also lost senior starter Laura Donovan to a torn ACL on in early January.
Platteville hung tough and trailed by just one after eight minutes of Friday’s playoff game.
Fellow senior Stephanie Philipps scored 30 seconds into the second quarter giving the second-seeded Hillmen a 14–13 lead, its final lead of the season.
But then everything fell apart for the home team.
Being without two-fifths of its starting lineup eventually proved too much for Platteville to overcome.
The seventh-seeded Papermakers closed the half on a 19–4 run and never looked back, building what proved to be an insurmountable 32–18 halftime advantage.
Nekoosa used a 2–3 zone to negate Platteville’s biggest advantages senior Elisa Bilderback’s scoring ability on the inside and the dribble penetration of sophomore Cassie Hamer.
Unable to make baskets against the zone, Platteville was unable to set up its full-court diamond press that netted a pair of quick baskets in the first quarter.
“Initially not having Julia didn’t appear to have an impact, but as the game went on not having her outside shooting obviously became a factor,” said Hillmen coach Wayne Jentz. “Our legs got tired. Without having that extra person we got tired and all our shots were coming up short. We had some key turnovers in the second quarter and they took control of the momentum. Then the more we fell behind the more we pressed and started taking a few bad shots. It was a rough night.”
Platteville shot just 26.8 percent (11 of 41) for the game, but just 13.8 (4 of 29) after Philipps basket in the first minute of the second quarter.
Bilderback finished the game with 10 points, but only had four after the first quarter.
Hamer finished with eight points and six rebounds, and Philipps was held to that lone two-point bucket.
Junior guard Lexi Brost scored a game-high to lead Nekoosa (18–7), which won the regional title Saturday night with a 51–49 victory at Wisconsin Dells.
Platteville finished the year 18–5, but four of those losses were to regional champions (Nekoosa, Richland Center, Cuba City and Barneveld).
“The loss was a tough one for us,” Jentz. “It hurts. It was a hard way to say good to the seniors, but we still had a great season. We won the program’s first conference title and four of the five teams that beat us will be playing in the sectionals.
“This group of seniors led us to an amazing season. They are going to be missed not only for what they did on the court, but for what they did off it as well.”
WIAA Division 3 Regional Semifinal
Nekoosa 53, Platteville 25
(from Friday, March 1 @ Platteville)
Nekoosa 13 19 11 10 — 53
Platteville 12 6 6 1 — 25
Nekoosa (17–7) — Brost 16, Schuh 13, Joborek 2, Marcouex 4, Haislmaier 4, Coyer 4, Schubert 4, Melvin 6. Totals — 20 10-13 53.
Platteville (18–5) — Stephanie Philipps 2, Elisa Bilderback 10, Cassie Hamer 8, Hannah Digman 1, Holly Kasper 2, Ashley Budden 2. Totals — 11 3-4 25.
3-point goals — N: 3 (Brost 1, Schuh 1, Schubert 1); P: 0. Team fouls — N: 9, P: 13. Fouled out — none.