Free Throws Deliver Win For SPASH Girls
By Ken McKenzie
The SPASH girls’ basketball team started slow in the opening period, played aggressive basketball during the middle two frames and then hung on as things got a little too interesting in the final minutes to post a 69-65 victory over Eau Claire North in non-conference action.
The Lady Panthers knocked down nine of ten free throws in the fourth quarter to seal the win Tuesday night.
Sarah Warner again led SPASH in scoring, netting 24 points with balanced, double figure support from Maggie Negaard , Abby Bohanski and Taylor Beadles. Warner finished the night on 8 of 13 from the floor and 8 of 9 from the stripe while Bohanski was 7 of 8 from the line.
Falling behind 6-0 in the opening couple of minutes, SPASH Coach Derek Kirklewski was forced to call a quick time out to check if his team was sleepwalking or awake to do battle and slow the inside game North was looking to set up.
“We finally woke up and established ourselves and fronted their post player,” said Kirklewski of the opening. “That changed things a bit and when we stayed fluid with our offense, we looked pretty good tonight. Any time we kind of slowed down and then looked to pass, we had some problems.”
The visiting Huskies used their 6’2” post player, Nikki Kilboten, to great advantage in the early going, as she scored six of the first ten points as North took leads of 6-0 and 10-9, with Bohanski and Negaard leading the SPASH surge to get back into contention.
Sydney Neale scored off a Warner assist and Beadles hit from long range at the top of the key on an inbounds play to oust to 1-10. The teams traded treys with Bohanski rattling one in for SPASH with Negaard scoring a three point play off another Warner pass to end the quarter to boost the Panthers to a slim 18-16 lead.
Negaard opened the second quarter by driving the left side of the lane and Warner took charge with twin scores; the second on a pretty assist from Negaard who led her teammate with her pass down the floor. SPASH built leads of nine and 11 with the North getting the final score of the half to trail 34-25 at the break.
Warner opened fast for the Lady Panthers with twin field goals to start the third as the hosts tried to widen the margin. Beadles added another three point shot midway through the third and Negaard had her shot blocked but calmly grabbed the loose ball to reload and drain a three-point shot to push the lead to 50-40 at 2:42. Beadles added twin free throws and Rachel Sullivan snared a rebound goal with Warner getting another score with five seconds to play in the frame to take a 12-point lead at the final scheduled break, 56-44.
SPASH continued to try to push their lead but Eau Claire North stubbornly hung tough, always answering any SPASH scores with a burst of their own. Neale added a right baseline jumper with 2:46 to play in the game to lead at 61-54 but North’s Kilboten answered with another rebound basket as the visitors closed the gap further with a trey at 1:15 to close to 61-59.
With time waning on the clock, the game playing time was extended as North committed multiple fouls. The SPASH girls were successful in answering that challenge, going eight for eight from the line in the final minute to secure the win. Bohanski earned four straight and Negaard and Warner each netted twin charity shots to hold the Huskies at bay.
“We seemed to have them on the run in the second half,” Kirklewski said. “But we just couldn’t close the deal and push on to a 14 or 16 point lead. North’s a good team (now 8-5) and this is a nice win for our program.”
The Lady Panthers, now 7-9 overall, will host Wausau East Friday night and attempt to solidify their hold on third place in the WVC. Currently at 3-3, they’ll try to keep East winless in conference, where the Lady Lumberjacks are now 0-6. SPASH Scoring: Taylor Beadles 10, Sarah Warner 24, Abby Bohanski 12, Sydney Neale 4, Rachel Sullivan 3, Maggie Negaard 16.