By Murray Gleffe, Correspondent
GREEN BAY-March Madness has arrived early for the Ashwaubenon Jaguars girls’ basketball team.
15 days after losing on the same court, the Jaguars turned the tables on the Notre Dame Tritons when it mattered most and picked up a 55-51 WIAA Regional Semi-Final victory (Feb. 23).
Autumn Schlader paced the way with 18 points and Megan Servais added 13.
The Jaguars used their transition well in the opening minutes of the game.
Hayden Kupsh started the scoring by putting in a left-handed lay-up off a crafty inbounds play.
Then, two possessions later, she added a bucket around the rim where she sealed her defender perfectly and the Jaguars took an early 6-2 lead.
Then, inexplicably, the Jaguars started to turn the ball over as the Tritons full-court press took its toll.
In addition, the combo of Lizzie Opichka and Kaycee Gierczak corralled six offensive rebounds that led to multiple second chance points.
It all added up to a Tritons 11-4 run in which they seized the lead at 13-10 with 8:42 left till halftime.
“We wanted to control both the lane and the glass coming into the game,” said Jaguars Head Basketball Coach Nicky VanLaanen. “I thought our posts did a great job of getting paint touches, but we got hammered on the boards by their bigs in the first half.”
Coach VanLaanen quickly called a time-out to make adjustments.
The Jaguars came out firing!
Peyton Wright started the barrage with a corner three pointer and Schlader knocked down a top of the key triple.
It was part of a stretch in which Ashwaubenon scored 13 of the 15 points put up.
The Jaguars took a 25-21 lead into the break.
Could the Jaguars flip the switch of the outcome that occurred just two weeks ago on this very same floor?
Instead of playing not too lose, the Jaguars started the second half by breaking the Tritons pressure time after time and in turn took the ball hard to the rim.
It paid off with scoring by Schlader, Schaible, and Servais in succession.
The Jaguars were up 38-32 but the Tritons were still getting far too many easy looks around the rim for the coaching staff to be pleased.
The margin continued to stay within a couple of possessions as the game went on.
A key play for the Jaguars came with 5:31 left in the game.
The Jaguars took close to 90 seconds off the clock and (Kally) VanLaanen found a cutting Servais who banked home the basket and completed the old fashioned three-point play with the free throw.
It gave the Jaguars a five-point lead and some breathing room for the time being.
With just under three minutes remaining, Gierczak was fouled and she nailed two free throws to cut the Jaguars margin to a precarious point (50-49).
Both teams knew what was at stake and neither wanted to end their season!
The Tritons had committed only four fouls to that point.
The Jaguars chewed up time as the Tritons were forced to put the green and gold into the bonus.
With just 1:28 remaining, Schlader hit the front end of a bonus to put the Jaguars up three points.
The Tritons took a lot of time off the clock (on their next offensive possession) plotting their outside shot to try and tie the game. Sammy Opichka’s attempt came up empty and Schlader was immediately fouled with just 28 seconds left in the ball game.
She calmly stepped to the charity stripe and drained both to give the Jaguars a 54-49 lead.
The Tritons had a late basket with just seven seconds remaining to again cut the margin to three, but Schlader sealed the Jaguar’s ticket to the next round by canning another free throw.
“Autumn played like a senior captain tonight,” added VanLaanen. “I challenged her, and she came up huge in the biggest of moments. She didn’t want this to be the last game for her and her teammates.”
The Jaguars improve to 14-10 on the season, but more importantly will be taking on the West De Pere Phantoms tomorrow night (Feb. 24-7:00 p.m.) for a Regional Championship!
“It will be an incredible atmosphere tomorrow night at West De Pere,” VanLaanen commented. “We let one slip away early in the year and we have to contain Evans. She is a tremendous talent.”
Notre Dame/Ashwaubenon Box Score
Notre Dame 21,30, -51
Ashwaubenon 25,30, -55
Tritons Final Totals:
Gierczak 16, M. Reitz 15, L. Opichka 10, S. Opichka 6, Laskowski 2, Milton 1, H. Reitz 1
Jaguars Final Totals:
Schlader 18, Servais 13, Schaible 8, Kupsh 6, Wright 6, VanLaanen 4