Physical game leads Cardinals to narrow victory
By Jacob Heid
STEVENS POINT — It was another victorious night for the No. 3-ranked Pacelli girls’ basketball team after a physical 60-56 victory over Almond-Bancroft in a CWC-South showdown at Pacelli High School on Jan. 29.
Pacelli freshman Jaedyn Zdroik finished the night with 21 points, while Almond-Bancroft sophomore Aaliyah Newby had 26 points in the loss, including a few big shots down the stretch to keep the Eagles in the game.
“The girls did a fantastic job with, you know, fighting through some of those runs, fighting through some of the no-calls,” said Pacelli Head Coach Allison Smaglik. “Overall, [the girls] continue to compete even with Jaedyn in foul trouble and Kaylin in foul trouble.”
The Cardinals took an early 14-8 lead with a mix of inside and outside buckets.
A quick 5-0 spurt by the Eagles, a Newby 3-pointer, and a Lexie Dernbach jumper got them right back in the game.
Both teams butted heads and continued the physical play for the remainder of the opening half.
Pacelli built up an 8-point advantage, 25-17, after a bucket from Zdroik with 5:30 to play.
The home Cardinals battled to a 29-23 lead after 18 minutes of play.
Out of the break, Almond-Bancroft went on a 9-4 run. Newby converted an and-one to get within one, 33-32, with 12 minutes to play.
Pacelli junior Katy Ilkka had one of her few 3-pointers to go up by double digits before another push from the Eagles in a foul-filled second half.
“Jaedyn is one of our big scorers. When she’s not scoring, there are other players that have been stepping up,” Smaglik stated. “We had Katy Ilkka step up and knock down some big threes. I’ve talked to her about ‘Hey, we need you to be a threat and start shooting.’ She really took that to heart. I love that she’s catching it and not even thinking about it.”
Zdroik went to the bench with four fouls and 5:30 left as the Cardinals held a 6-point advantage.
Newby scored five points down the stretch, including a 3-pointer with 47 seconds left, to keep Almond-Bancroft within one possession.
One made free throw from Zdroik made it a 4-point game, and Pacelli exited with a win after a defensive stand.
With a target on their back in the last weeks of the regular season, the Cardinals look to hold onto what they’ve built and strengthen certain aspects of their game.
“Hopefully, a lot of momentum. We’re going to continue to grow,” Smaglik said about what they want to expect down the stretch. “There’s a lot of good things that happened in this game, and then there’s obviously some things we can take away. The next two weeks after this week are going to be tough.”
Pacelli’s (19-1, 9-0) next game is a third-straight home game vs. Pittsville on Tuesday, Feb. 6, at 7 p.m.
Almond-Bancroft’s next game is at Pittsville on Thursday, Feb. 1.