Preble loses late lead in overtime loss
By Greg Bates
ASHWAUBENON – The embrace said it all.
As Green Bay Preble girls’ basketball coach Jim Doell and Fox River Classic Conference player of the year Carley Duffney latched onto one another in the hallway, there was a deep sense of accomplishment yet immense heartbreak.
Accomplishment the Preble program went the farthest its ever gone but heartbreak after being mere seconds from advancing to a sectional championship game for the right to go to state.
Preble held a five-point lead over Kimberly with 36.7 seconds remaining in the second half, but the Papermakers forced overtime by hitting a pair of big shots.
In the extra session, No. 7-ranked Kimberly was 12-for-12 at the free throw line and pulled off a stunning 62-55 victory in a WIAA Division 1 sectional semifinal March 5 at Ashwaubenon High School.
“We definitely gave Kimberly a scare,” said Doell. “I don’t know how they felt about us, but we were ready to go blow for blow with them.”
The first sectional final in Preble history was oh so close.
“I’ve never been there, and I thought this was a great chance to be there,” Doell said. “I absolutely love these girls. They’re fantastic kids, and that’s what makes it so difficult. They’ve won lots of games for me, and I can’t love them enough.”
It was a seesaw affair where neither team led by more than five points until the final horn sounded.
Preble (20-5) trailed 41-38 with 3:45 remaining in regulation before going on a 10-2 run to take a 48-43 lead.
Kimberly’s Grace Kieffer nailed a three-pointer with 29 seconds left to make it a two-point game.
“We couldn’t give up the three,” Doell said. “We said, ‘Give them the two if they take it.’ You can’t leave shooters in the corner, and we left a shooter and they hit it.”
After a timeout, Preble got the in-bounds pass into Duffney, who raced down the court and missed a shot in the lane.
Kimberly (20-4) pulled down the rebound, and Kieffer drove the length of the court to convert a layup with 15 seconds left to tie it, 48-48.
“I felt like I was going to get fouled,” Duffney said. “It’s 50/50 at the end of the game like that – they can either call it, or they couldn’t call it.”
Preble broke Kimberly’s full-court press again, but the Hornets were whistled for a travel before a layup went in the hoop.
The sequence of events for Preble sent the game to overtime.
“It didn’t happen for us,” Doell said. “I take blame for that stuff. I need to get them through situations a bit more. I have to set them up for success, and I didn’t do that tonight. We didn’t make the right decision, and that’s a reflection of what I did.”
Kendall Renard drained a three-pointer with 3:16 left in overtime to put Preble up 51-48, but Kimberly answered with an 8-0 run to seize control of the game.
“We had some foul trouble at the end of regulation,” Doell said. “Once some of our first kids get in foul trouble, it’s tough for us to overcome. Our bench wasn’t nearly as strong as theirs. Once we had to dig into our bench, our quickness and shooting was less. It was tough to catch up once Kimberly got the lead.”
After starting the season 1-3, Preble won 19 of 20 games.
“This is why I coach,” Doell said. “At the beginning of the season, we weren’t a very good team. These girls and the coaching staff worked hard enough to get to this point where we felt like we got cheated out of playing in the sectional final. That’s life. Life is not easy.”
Said Duffney: “At the beginning, we weren’t playing good as a team. We didn’t have good communication. Then throughout the season, we had good defense, which we still had good defense tonight.”
The Hornets have a solid junior class coming back, led by Duffney.
“We’re losing a big part,” Doell said. “Our seniors were a big part of what we did. I can’t talk about them enough. The leadership of Sam Voelker and Kendall and Dominique King coming around – most improved player by far on our team. We wouldn’t have made it nearly as far without those kids.”
Duffney said the sectional semifinal loss will push the returning players in the offseason.
“We want a state title, even though we aren’t going to be able to get our seniors that,” said a choked up Duffney. “Us underclassmen know we can get there.”