Lemens sparks Tritons to regional championship
By Murray Gleffe
GREEN BAY — Ashley Lemens doesn’t garner the attention some of her teammates get on the basketball floor.
All of that changed in Notre Dame Academy’s WIAA Division 2 regional final game Feb. 29 against West De Pere.
Lemens entered the contest averaging a shade more than three points per game but poured in 15 to lead the No. 1-seeded Tritons to a 58-50 victory over the No. 4 Phantoms.
“I saw some great senior leadership from Ashley and Emily Cribben tonight,” said Notre Dame head coach Sara Rohde. “I called a couple of timeouts to settle the team down. Sammy [Ophichka] got into foul trouble early, and we gutted out a win.”
Opichka led the Tritons (18-6 overall) with 16 points despite being saddled with foul trouble all game.
West De Pere (19-5) put three players in double figures, with Casey Jepson scoring 12 points and Alivia McNabb and Alexa Thomson each adding 10.
The Phantoms controlled the first half, jumping out to an 11-3 lead after Thomson connected on a left-handed layup from inside the lane.
With 11:55 left in the first half, West De Pere’s Imani Ninham left the game with what appeared to be a lower leg injury and didn’t return.
Ninham entered the contest averaging more than 13 points per game.
Notre Dame crept back into the contest, but with 7:53 left until intermission, Opichka had to go to the bench after picking up her third foul.
The Phantoms didn’t capitalize as much as they needed to and took a 23-20 lead into the break.
The Tritons cut the margin to a single point early in the second half, but West De Pere went up five points, 31-26, after Rebekah Buboltz connected on a rainbow triple.
Lemens then got into the action for Notre Dame, scoring back-to-back baskets.
Point guard Charley Apple nailed a bomb to give the Tritons their first lead of the game, 37-35, with 10:42 remaining.
“We have the mentality and the power, even when a main player is out, to score,” said Lemens. “I needed to push tonight, work hard and finish when I was on the floor.”
Four lead changes ensued in the next six minutes.
With 4:36 left and the game tied at 44-44, Opichka sank two free throws after re-entering the game with four fouls.
Down the stretch, West De Pere couldn’t find the basket, as Notre Dame ended the game on a 14-6 run.
Eight of those points came from Cribben.
The Tritons advanced to play No. 2 Pulaski in a sectional semifinal game Thursday, March 5, at Kaukauna High School.
“I’m proud of the girls,” Rohde said. “It might have been a combination of nerves on our part and West De Pere playing well early. It was a rough first half, but it’s about the way you finish which matters. It’s one step at a time, and we know we are going to be facing a Fox River Classic Conference opponent in the sectionals. It’s never easy.”
The teams split their two regular-season meetings, with each team winning on its home court.
West De Pere: 23, 27—50
Notre Dame: 20, 38—58
Phantoms: Jepson 12, Thomson 10, McNabb 10, Buboltz 9, Baeten 3, Mannisto 3, Schneider 3.
Tritons: Opichka 16, Lemens 15, Cribben 8, Gregoire 8, Apple 7, Hope Barington 2, Gallagher 2.