By Rich Palzewic
DE PERE – The much anticipated cross-town rivalry game between the De Pere and West De Pere girls’ basketball teams Saturday, Jan. 15, turned into a lopsided affair.
Behind 28 points from senior Jordan Meulemans, the Redbirds coasted to a 70-43 nonconference victory over the Phantoms at De Pere High School.
Meulemans, a Division I commit to Butler University, had 20 points in the first half.
Sophomore Claire Bjorge chipped in 15 points for De Pere (13-3).
“I know lots of the girls (from West De Pere),” Bjorge said. “It’s a good nonconference matchup for us and a good win. Once we get on the court, we’re rivals, but after the game, we’re friends.”
Bjorge, who’s averaging almost 15 points per game, hit six field goals and a trio of free throws to account for her points.
“I think I played well,” Bjorge said. “I had a slow start, but I got it going toward the end.”
Behind the 20 first-half points from Meulemans, a 25-points-per-game scorer, the Redbirds jumped out to a 40-23 lead at the break.
The 6-foot guard nailed three 3-pointers in the first half.
McKenna Ciesielszyk also had a strong start, scoring six of De Pere’s first 13 points in helping her team bolt out to a 20-5 advantage.
De Pere Head Coach Jeremy Boileau said it was nice to see his squad start fast.
“We’ve struggled with starting fast this season,” he said. “It’s taken us a while to get going. We did some things differently on defense – we had hard switches and frustrated them a bit. We brought lots of energy, and it was hard for them to match. I’m proud of my girls to finish strong this week.”
The Redbirds lost 53-40 to No. 2 ranked Notre Dame (Division 2) Jan. 11 and then came back with a 69-53 victory over Ashwaubenon three nights later.
In the Ashwaubenon game, Boileau said Meulemans received a cut that wouldn’t stop bleeding.
“She didn’t get it to stop bleeding until 2:30 (a.m. the morning of West De Pere game),” he said. “She probably needed stitches, and we didn’t know if she could play. To come out and play as she did was awesome. She didn’t want to miss this rivalry, the last time she’ll be a part of it. I don’t know if she can get stitches anymore, but she’ll have a nice battle mark to remember this time in her life.”
In control, Boileau played his reserves for about eight minutes at the end of the game.
“They put in the time like everyone else,” Boileau said. “There are games you anticipate getting girls time, and then it doesn’t work out. It’s important to get everyone time.”
Separated by 2.4 miles and the Fox River, Boileau said the rivalry is special.
“It means lots to play (West De Pere),” he said. “The rivalry was lost for many years, but for about the last five years, it’s been fun to play them again. We know them well from going against them in the summer. It brings a fun atmosphere to the two communities. It would be nice to see them join the Fox River Classic Conference (FRCC), which I think is becoming closer to reality.”
The Phantoms (8-6) were led by freshman Ella Francois’ 14 points.
Katie Waukau, Jocelyn Thomson and Victoria Karchinski all added six points apiece.
“It’s always a big game against De Pere,” West De Pere Head Coach Chris Abaray said. “We knew it would be a big challenge against them, but it’s important to play them.”
The opposite of De Pere, the Phantoms started slowly.
“De Pere runs the floor well,” Abaray said. “They burned us in transition all game. It’s hard to scrape back when you’re down so much to a team like that. When we’d get a bucket – we had to work to get them – and then got beat in transition. We’d score a bucket, and then it was negated in transition. It was deflated for our girls at times.”
De Pere is next in action Friday, Jan. 21, when it travels to Sheboygan North for an FRCC game, while West De Pere travels to New London for a Bay Conference game Tuesday, Jan. 18.