BY RICH PALZEWIC
SUAMICO – Seventh.
That’s where the Bay Port girls’ basketball team was predicted to finish in the preseason Fox River Classic Conference poll. A regular season later, the Pirates won their first conference title since 2004 after they defeated the Ashwaubenon Jaguars 67-61 Feb. 15 at Bay Port High School.
Coupled with Green Bay Notre Dame’s 55-44 FRCC road loss at Sheboygan North, the Pirates (17-5 overall, 14-4 FRCC) didn’t have to share the title with the Tritons, who beat Bay Port twice this season.
“Like I said at the beginning of the season, I knew this team wasn’t a seventh-place team,” said Bay Port head coach Kati Coleman. “It wasn’t going to be easy to win conference with the team we were up against, but I also knew that this team was going to give it one heck of a try; and what do you know – they did it! Fourteen years – streaks are meant to be broken.”
The Pirates weren’t even members of the FRCC in ’04 but played in the Bay Conference. Coleman was still in high school playing for the Jaguars and all the girls on this year’s team hadn’t even started kindergarten yet.
McKenzie Johnson and Mady Draak led the Pirates with 17 and 15 points respectively, while Alaina Abel chipped in with nine. A trio of players – Reagan McIntyre, Peyton Coughlin and Emma Nagel – had eight points apiece. Johnson also added seven rebounds and had four three-pointers.
Hayden Kupsh led Ashwaubenon (12-10, 10-8) with 17 points and Autumn Schlader totaled 16. Lydia Schaible finished with 11.
Bay Port looked like it was going to run away with things early on, but the Jaguars had two separate big runs to keep the game close.
With the Pirates leading 27-11 halfway through the first half, Ashwaubenon went on a 9-0 surge to cut the deficit to seven. Bay Port recovered nicely from there and took a 44-26 lead into the break. Johnson had 14 points in the first 18 minutes, while Draak (10) and junior Peyton Coughlin (8) also had strong halves. Coughlin had a pair of three-pointers.
With Bay Port up 49-28 (its biggest lead of the game) early in the second half, the Jaguars scored 13 straight points to get within eight at 49-41. Things stayed that way until Kupsh scored eight points in a row late in the game to cut the lead to four (62-58).
The Pirates missed several key free throws down the stretch, making it more difficult to seal the game. They finished 10-of-25 from the line as a team.
“It helped we were up by 18 (at the half),” added Coleman. “If that wasn’t the case, tonight may have been a little different. (The missed free throws) can’t happen. I think free throws are just a mind game – once you miss one, it’s in your head.
Bay Port is the No. 2 seed in the upcoming sectional bracket and will host No. 15 Waukesha North Friday, Feb. 23, at 7:00. If the Pirates can win that game, they’d host the winner of Homestead/Kettle Moraine the next night and advance to sectionals.
Note: The evening was also set up as a fundraiser for a 3-year-old little boy named Sully and for the Herma Heart Foundation. Sully has had two open-heart surgeries and is getting ready for a third.
People in attendance wore red to show support and a 50-50 raffle was conducted.
“I want to say thank you to everyone who came out tonight and made Sully’s night a success,” said Coleman. “The boys’ basketball team, Bay Port fans, Ashwaubenon fans and Sully fans were all there – what an amazing thing to see … a community coming together to support something that is bigger than us.”
Ashwaubenon: 26, 35 – 61
Bay Port: 44, 23 – 67
ASH: Kupsh 17, Schlader 16, Schaible 11, Wright 9, Servais 8; 3-pt: Wright 3, Kupsh 3, Servais 1, Schlader 1; FT: 15-18; PF: 21.
BP: Johnson 17, Draak 15, Abel 9, Coughlin 8, McIntyre 8, Nagel 8, Krause 2; 3-pt: Johnson 4, Coughlin 2, McIntyre 1; FT: 10-25; PF: 14.