By Scott Williams
WAUSAU – One by one, Newman Catholic basketball players climbed the ladder, with scissors in hand, to cut off a souvenir piece of net Saturday.
All of them are hoping to have a chance to do that again next week.
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Except this time the Cardinals players hope to be cutting down nets at the Resch Center in Green Bay instead of the south basket in the Wausau East High School gym.
For the second-straight season and sixth time since 2010, Newman Catholic earned a trip to the WIAAgirls basketball state tournament after a 49-37 triumph over Wausaukee in a Division 5 sectional championship matchup Saturday afternoon. Next up for Newman is a state semi-final game on Friday, March 8th at 10:45 vs Clayton.
Lauren Shields paced a balanced attack with 17 points. She was joined in double figures by Jadelyn Ganski with 11 and Julia Seidel had 10.
This win was about much more than a chance for redemption at the state tournament for the Cardinals.
“Not only was (last year’s state semifinal loss) in the back of our minds, but when we stepped on the court this season, we wanted to get our lone senior back to state, Mackenzie Krach,” Shields said. “As long as we’re all in every possession, good things happen.”
Some familiar programs await the Cardinals (24-3) when the state semifinals tip off Friday at 9:05 a.m.
Black Hawk, Clayton and Newman Catholic all return for another crack at a gold ball. The new kid in the picture is Fall River.
State pairings will be determined after the four remaining teams are seeded. Newman Catholic coach Jason Vanden Elzen guessed Clayton could be the potential semifinal opponent in a matchup of the No. 2 and 3 seeds.
He’s glad to be back in Green Bay, but realizes the Cardinals will need to raise their level of play a couple notches next week.
“It wasn’t pretty, but the girls were able to get the job done. It’s survive-and-advance. That’s all that matters right now,” Vanden Elzen said. “Kudos to them. Their (Wausaukee) guards are quicker than what they look like on film.”
Wausaukee (19-4) hoped for a better showing in its first sectional final appearance.
While their signature stingy defense was on full display, the Rangers were unable to put the ball through the basket.
That was especially true from the perimeter. Any time they got the ball inside, the length of the Cardinals, especially, Ganski made life miserable for Wausaukee.
Madelyn Schlies and Natalie Schroeder shared scoring honors with nine points apiece.
“We just couldn’t find the bottom of that cylinder up there,” Rangers coach Dave Messar said. “It’s hard when you don’t have a great game in a big game. That’s the way the ball bounces I guess.
“That’s a good team, there’s no doubt. And they should be, that’s why they’re here. We just didn’t have a great day shooting and that’s the way it goes.”
Coach Messar probably wishes the hot hands of Newman Catholic’s Shields and Ganski rubbed off on his players.
The tandem combined to connect on 10 of 13 field goal attempts, including a 4-for-7 effort from behind the arc.
The Rangers got off to a promising start. Courtney Messar drained a 3-pointer for a 3-0 lead, but they quickly went cold.
Conversely, the Cardinals began to warm up. They immediately went on a 17-1 run to grab complete control and took a 29-16 cushion into the break.
The lead would grow to as many as 20 points in the second half before Vanden Elzen cleared his bench in the final minutes.
“Once we found our pace, I think we became more patient and got decent looks, and that was important,” Shields said. “We were able to set the tone.”
Black Hawk has been on the Cardinals collective minds since the disappointing 59-31 loss in last year’s state semifinal.
They wouldn’t mind another shot at the Warriors. Then again, it really doesn’t matter who the opponent is next Friday.
The goal of getting back to Green Bay has been accomplished. And the Cardinals feel they’re prepared for whomever they run into at the Resch Center.
“I think we’re going to be ready to play a good game,” Shields said. “I’m really excited.”
Cardinals 49, Rangers 37
Wausaukee 16 21 – 37
Newman 29 20 – 49
WAUSAUKEE (37): Stephanie Murray 2, Madelyn Schlies 9, Courtney Messar 3, Kaelyn Schlies 8, Natalie Schroeder 9, Allison Versaskas 2, Emily Shaw 4. 3-pointers: 1 (Messar 1). Record: 19-4.
NEWMAN CATHOLIC (49): Mackenzie Krach 4, Lauren Shields 17, Jadelyn Ganski 11, Julia Seidel 10, Angela Rougeot-Donath 2, Alex Frankel 5. 3-pointers: 6 (Shields 3, Ganski, Seidel, Frankel). Record: 24-3.