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Never-say-die Warriors one point shy PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Debbie Hamm   
Wednesday, 17 March 2010 15:37

Stunning Thill-led rally nearly produces miracle finish in regional final loss

A fairy-tale season came to an end for the Ozaukee girls’ basketball team in a WIAA Division 3 regional title game against Watertown Luther Prep last Saturday.

Despite mounting a furious rally in the final minute, the Warriors were handed a 45-44 loss at Sheboygan North High School.

“We just needed a couple of baskets to fall for us,” said Ozaukee coach Lee LeMahieu, whose team finished with a 20-5 season record that surprised many fans.

“The girls played hard and battled to the end. We had a very good comeback, but it was not quite enough.

“It was a disappointing loss, but I was not disappointed with the girls’ effort.”

The Warriors, who won their first two tournament games after sharing the Central Lakeshore Conference title with Oostburg, were sparked on their post-season run by a diminutive dynamo named Kaitlyn Thill.

The 5-foot-4-inch senior point guard capped her career as one of the top players in Ozaukee team history by leading a frantic comeback.

Ozaukee trailed, 43-33, with just 1 minute, 35 seconds left, when the rally began. At the 1:17 mark, Jeanette Lapinski hit a three-point shot to pull the Warriors within 43-36.

The final minute was characteristic of Thill’s consistent leadership and tenacity. In the closing seconds, she came up with three steals, six points and an assist despite playing with four fouls.

Two of the steals led to Thill baskets that cut the deficit to three points with 45.6 seconds left.

Thill came up with another theft on Luther Prep’s inbounds pass, was tripped but kept her dribble and found Caitlin Siesco open for a layup that pulled Ozaukee within 43-42 with 28 seconds to go.

With 15.8 seconds left, the Warriors fouled Lydia Free, who had made just two of five free throws to that point in the game. However, Free hit both attempts to put the Phoenix up, 45-42.

Thill had one final chance to rescue her team. After taking an inbounds pass with 12 seconds left, she raced the length of the court and got into the lane hoping to draw a foul.

Thill scored while drawing contact, but no whistle was blown, and time ran out on the Warriors.

Ozaukee’s determined finish mirrored its strong start in the game. The Warriors held a 13-8 lead after the first quarter only to be outscored by 10 points in the second period by Luther Prep, which held a 26-21 edge at halftime.

Ozaukee pulled within 33-31 after three periods.

Perimeter offense was a problem throughout the game for the Warriors, who made just two of 18 three-point attempts.

“We struggled with our outside shooting against their zone,” LeMahieu said.

Thill finished the game with 19 points, 10 steals, five assists and four rebounds.

Hillary Johnson grabbed a team-high eight rebounds for Ozaukee before fouling out with 4:23 to play.

Luther Prep (16-9), which advanced to sectional play this week, was led by Free and Johannah Crass with 12 points apiece.

The Warriors opened the eyes of many naysayers who predicted they would finish no better than fourth in their conference. In addition to sharing the top spot, they handed co-champion Oostburg both of its CLC losses.

“Looking at the big picture, this was a very successful season — 20 wins and a conference championship,” LeMahieu said.    

Thill broke the Ozaukee single-season scoring record with 480 points and ended her career as the second-highest scorer in Ozaukee history, trailing only Courtnie Paulus. Thill is also the Warriors’ single-season and career leader in steals and their
career record-holder in assists.

LeMahieu also singled out his other seniors — Lapinski, Siesco and Erin Hartnett — for their leadership this season.

Ozaukee 53, Random Lake 43

Fast starts in each half propelled the Warriors to a regional semifinal victory at home on March 11.

Ozaukee took a 20-10 lead in the first quarter, only to have the Rams rally with a second-quarter run that gave them a 29-27 edge at halftime.

In the third quarter, the Warriors stepped up defensively and took charge with a 16-4 run.

“This was a tough game. Random Lake played well,” LeMahieu said.

Thill led the Warriors with 22 points and seven rebounds.

Hartnett had a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds.

Ozaukee 59, Pardeeville 21

Thill’s strong all-around performance sparked the Warriors in an easy first-round win at home March 9.

She finished with 18 points, 12 steals, six assists and five rebounds.

Everyone scored for Ozaukee by halftime, including two freshmen who joined the team for the playoffs. The Warriors got several solid minutes from both Katie Bares and Emily Thome, who both received extended playing time in the second and
fourth quarters.

Ozaukee jumped to a 20-3 lead after one quarter and held a 40-7 advantage at intermission.

Lapinski had her best game of the season with nine points and nine rebounds.

Hartnett finished with eight points and seven rebounds.


KAITLYN THILL sparked a late rally, but the Ozaukee girls came up one point short in a season-ending defeat Saturday. Photo by Sam Arendt

 

 
Time runs out on Pirates’ dream PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Steve Ostermann   
Wednesday, 10 March 2010 17:14

Close calls don’t go Port boys’ way in painful regional loss that ends team’s memorable season

Josh Gasser and his teammates could barely watch as their dream faded last Saturday afternoon.

A heartbreaking loss to Whitefish Bay — in a 58-53 overtime thriller to decide a WIAA Division 3 regional title at Cedarburg High School — ended the season for a Gasser-led Port Washington boys’ basketball squad that had high hopes for a long postseason run, perhaps all the
way to the state tournament.

Despite leading most of the way, including by as many as eight points in the first half, the Pirates came up short after a frantic final 12 minutes filled with clutch plays and costly mistakes by both sides, as well as a few critical calls by the officials.

“We should have never put ourselves in a position where we had to go to overtime,” said Port coach John Bunyan, whose team was poised to beat the Blue Dukes for the second time this season after splitting two North Shore Conference games against them.

“We kept taking the ball inside, but in we didn’t get the calls and couldn’t get our shots to drop. It was disappointing.”

What wasn’t disappointing to fans on both sides was the high drama that unfolded in the closing minutes of regulation and early in overtime.

After Bay rallied to take a 46-44 lead with 3:20 left in the fourth quarter, Gasser tied the score by hitting a pair of free throws, the last of his game-high 26 points.

Ron Patten countered with a three-pointer that put the Dukes up, 49-46, with 2:15 left, setting the stage for a frenzied exchange in which each team turned the ball over twice and missed several shots.

After Bay’s Jevontae Merriwether missed the front end of a bonus free-throw chance, Port drew even on a three-pointer by Sawyer Mosley with 32 seconds to go.

Wasting no time, Bay’s John Johnston raced upcourt for a layup in traffic that put his team up, 51-49. The Pirates tried to counter quickly, only to have Gasser whistled for a turnover as he tried to take a three-point shot.

Only 8.9 seconds remained when Port fouled Paul Anton, who missed another front end of a bonus chance. When the Pirates grabbed the rebound, they hustled downcourt, got the ball inside and misfired twice in traffic before Cory Steinmetz drew a foul with no time showing on the clock.

With his team’s fate hanging in the balance, the senior forward stepped to the line as the only player on the court. His first shot caught a bit on the rim but dropped through the net, and his second swished, tying the game at 51-51 and forcing overtime.

“That was a real clutch effort by Cory,” Bunyan said. “It looked like we had things going our way again We felt good.”

Things looked even brighter for Port in the first two minutes of the overtime. A Steinmetz layup put the Pirates up, 53-51, and they got the ball back on a Bay turnover.

However, a missed Port layup gave Bay new life. After Johnston scored on a drive to tie the game with 1:55 left, the Pirates tried to get the ball to Gasser in the low post. When the ball was deflected, Gasser was called for his fifth foul in a scramble to regain possession.

A pair of free throws put Bay ahead, 55-53, and after a missed Port shot, Johnston sank two more free throws with 52 seconds left that helped seal the outcome.

As the final horn sounded, the Dukes and their fans erupted in celebration while the Pirates and their faithful shook their heads in disbelief. No one was more disheartened than Gasser, Port’s all-time scoring leader who will take his basketball talents to the University of Wisconsin-Madison next fall as a scholarship player.

“Things just didn’t go our way in the second half,” said Gasser, who gutted his way through a lingering ankle injury that left him hobbled after the game.

“We didn’t get any calls, but I don’t want to blame the officials. I guess we didn’t make enough plays, and Bay did.

“Both teams played hard. Bay has a really good team, but we thought we should have won.”

Port got the better of Bay in the first half, controlling the interior as it built a 19-11 lead. After the Dukes pulled to within three points late in the second quarter, the Pirates went on a late run and took a 25-20 lead into the break.

Port’s lead stood at 38-33 on a three-pointer by Gasser late in the third quarter, but Johnston countered with a three of his own to pull the Dukes within 38-36 entering the final period.

Johnston, a senior guard, led Bay with 13 points, all in the second half, and Patten finished with 11.

Steinmetz had 11 points to join Gasser as the only Port players in double figures.

Bunyan said the Pirates’ defensive plan was to hold Johnston and Jamie Schneck, Bay’s 6-foot-7-inch center, in check. The strategy worked to near-perfection in the first half, when the duo combined for just two points, but they got free for 19 points in the second half.

The Dukes’ major objective in the game was also playing tough defense — on Port’s center of attention.

“We knew we had to pick up our defensive intensity and really focus on Josh,” Bay coach Kevin Lazovik said.

“He’s such a great player. We knew if we didn’t hold him in check, it was going to be very tough to win.

“It was a game that could have gone either way. We’re just happy it worked out the way it did.”

Port finished the season with a 19-4 record that included its first conference title in 36 years.

Bay (17-7) advanced to sectional play this weekend.

Port Washington 84, Young Coggs Prep 58

Points came early and often for the host Pirates as they raced to an easy win in a regional semifinal game March 4.

Despite being slowed by a sore ankle, Gasser scored a game-high 33 points, including 27 in the first half when Port built a 52-25 lead.

Before Port’s starters retired for good, the Pirates’ advantage grew to as much as 34 points, at 67-33, midway through the third period.

Port dominated the front line throughout the first half, scoring repeatedly on short jumpers, layups and second-chance baskets. 

Eleven Port players contributed points, including Shane Kennedy with 11 and Steinmetz and Mosley with nine apiece.

Young Coggs Prep, a Milwaukee-based team that played as an independent, was led by Diondre Willis with 19 points.

The Eagles finished the season 18-4 with a schedule against primarily teams from charter schools.

 


AS THE FINAL HORN sounded, the Port Washington sideline was filled with players heartbroken by the outcome of Saturday’s regional title game, including standout guard Josh Gasser, who buried his head in his hands on the floor. Photos by Sam Arendt

 

PORT’S Joey McIlree found himself surrounded by a pair of Whitefish Bay defenders.

 

 
CLC crown speaks volume for Ozaukee girls PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Debbie Hamm   
Wednesday, 10 March 2010 17:12

Title-clinching victory in regular-season finale allows team to silence naysayers

As the final seconds ticked off the clock last Thursday in Fredonia, Ozaukee High School girls’ basketball coach Lee LeMahieu turned to his starters, who had just taken their seats on the bench.

“Enjoy this one. This is huge,” he told them. “This is so huge.”

“This” was Ozaukee’s 48-33 win over visiting Elkhart Lake, a victory that gave the Warriors a share of the Central Lakeshore Conference title.

Ozaukee finished CLC play with a 16-2 record, tying Oostburg for the top spot. Both of Oostburg’s losses were at the hands of the Warriors.

Ozaukee’s only defeats came against third-place Howards Grove and fourth-place Elkhart Lake.

“Winning conference is a great accomplishment for this team,” said LeMahieu, whose squad overcame the loss of several key players from last season, including two who transferred to other schools.

“It’s even more special considering we were picked fourth and fifth in two preseason polls. These girls have surprised a lot of people, including me. They deserve a lot of credit.”

From the opening tip, the Warriors showed how much they wanted to win. Ozaukee scored the first 13 points and sprinted to a 21-7 lead by the end of the opening period.

The Warriors made nine of their first 12 field-goal attempts and got points from each of their starters during the fast start.

Elkhart Lake’s comeback attempt took a major blow when starting center Anna Vollrath went down hard on a foul late in the first quarter and left the game. She did not return.

After taking a 32-15 lead into halftime, Ozaukee cooled off in the third quarter, when it failed to score from the field. The Warriors’ only points came on a pair of free throws by guard Kaitlyn Thill, who gave them a 34-23 lead by the end of the period.

“We struggled offensively in the third quarter but played well defensively to keep us in front,” LeMahieu said.

With Elkhart Lake still in contention, the Warriors needed some players to step up and seal the victory on Senior Night. Jumping at the chance were Thill and Erin Hartnett, who combined for all but three of their team’s points in the final three quarters.

Thill sparked a late run by scoring 10 of her game-high 25 points in the final period. Hartnett, a center, had Ozaukee’s four other points in the quarter and finished with 13.

During a timeout late in the third quarter, LeMahieu reminded his team that it had to finish the job against the Resorters.

“They’re not going to roll over and let you have it. You have to want it,” he said.

Elkhart Lake couldn’t get any closer than nine points the rest of the way.

The Resorters (11-7) were led by Kate Vollrath’s 13 points.

Hillary Johnson grabbed a team-high eight rebounds for Ozaukee, and Hartnett had seven.

This week, the Warriors took an overall record of 18-4 into WIAA Division 3 tournament play, starting with a quarterfinal game Tuesday (see related story).

 
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