Redbirds take care of Pirates in opener
By Josh Staloch
DE PERE – The De Pere girls’ basketball team took control of its Dec. 1 game early and never looked back in cruising to a 59-39 victory over Bay Port to open the season.
“I thought our girls played with good instinct tonight,” said De Pere head coach Jeremy Boileau after the game via phone. “They were helping each other out and were causing some problems on defense. I was happy to see it. They’ve shown a lot of progress since we started practicing two weeks ago.”
The Redbirds started slow offensively – allowing the Pirates their only lead of the game – before a deep shot from Oakley Witteck tied things up.
De Pere then picked up four unanswered points from McKenna Ciesielczyk to go up 7-3.
A three-pointer from Bay Port’s Kayla Hendricks put an end to the De Pere scoring run, but the Pirates were unable to reclaim the lead with the Redbirds pulling away later in the half.
“I felt like our intensity picked up after the first four or five minutes,” Boileau said. “We picked it up on the defensive side, and that sparked us offensively. We were forcing some turnovers, and I thought that helped us on both sides of the ball.”
Defensively, De Pere found some success with the full-court press and well-timed double teams, getting easy scores like Jordan Meulemans’ first field goal of the game, which came on a layup following a turnover for a 20-9 lead.
With about five minutes to go in the half, the Pirates gained some momentum and closed the gap to six points at 23-17 on a three-point play by Jacki Szelagowski.
But the Redbirds responded by closing the half with seven unanswered points, highlighted by a three from Meulemans, to take a 30-17 advantage into the break.
De Pere dominated the boards on both ends of the floor, and it was a flurry of offensive rebounds that led to the first bucket of the second half, a hard-fought two points in the paint from Sophia McCarty.
That was followed by a steal and score from Meulemans before McCarty added a three-point play with a drive into the paint that drew a foul.
The rush of scoring and suffocating defense by the Redbirds opened up a 20-point lead early in the second, and they cruised from there.
“We always want to limit the other team’s second-chance opportunities,” said Boileau. “That’s how we limit momentum. I thought the girls valued that, and they did a good job tonight against a lengthy Bay Port team. I was glad to see them step up.”
Meulemans and Witteck each scored 12 points to lead De Pere, while McCarty added nine.
The Pirates, who were playing their first game under new head coach Dennis Gladwell, were led by Szelagowski’s 16 points.
“It was weird playing without any fans – they help with the energy,” Gladwell said. “Our girls never gave up and battled to the end. There were lots of good things I saw us do. I told the girls the team that wins the rebounds, turnovers and loose balls is the team that’s going to win. Unfortunately, we didn’t win any of those. I thought we did a great job on Muelemans holding her to 12 points, but we got lost on defense and allowed others to score at will, which is what we can’t do.”