By Rich Palzewic
DE PERE – If one game is any indication, the West De Pere girls’ basketball team’s youth movement is ready now.
Behind a combined 45 points from four sophomores, the Phantoms pulled away in the second half in a 71-49 nonconference victory over Pulaski on Nov. 15 at West De Pere High School.
It was the season opener for both teams.
Sophomores Madisyn Berggren (17 points), Faith Walder (12), Ava VanEss (11) and Ella Francois (five) all had strong games for the Phantoms (1-0).
Senior Victoria Karchinski pumped in 11 points to help the cause.
“As a team, our learning curve has to be a lot shorter this season,” West De Pere coach Chris Abaray said. “We’ve done some good stuff in the past, but right now, we have to shore up some things. We have five or six girls who can lead us in scoring on any given night. In the second half, we drilled some shots.”
With Pulaski leading 8-5 early, VanEss scored eight consecutive points for the Phantoms to make it 13-8.
The Phantoms increased the lead to 31-16 after Walder scored seven points during an 18-8 run.
The Red Raiders (0-1) closed to gap to 38-30 at the break behind the hot shooting of Ella Wiese, who scored 14 first-half points.
The senior Wiese was held to a pair of free throws in the second.
In the second half, West De Pere began with a 22-5 run to put the game out of reach.
“That window where we went on our big run, we played high-pressure defense, got rebounds, pushed the tempo and got our shots — I couldn’t ask for anything more,” Abaray said. “Our shots won’t always fall, but our intensity was good. We also got the ball into the post some tonight — something we’ve struggled with in the past.”
During the game-changing run, Berggren scored 13 points, including a trio of 3-pointers.
“I started off a bit shaky,” Berggren said. “I hold myself to a high standard, so I knew I could play better. Something had to change in the second half. As a team, when we started working together, everything started clicking.”
Berggren said it’s hard to contain the excitement she has for this year and into the future.
“I’ve been playing with these girls for a long time,” she said. “I love playing with them — it’s fun coming into the gym.”
Eleven different Pulaski players scored on the evening, but no one else besides Wiese scored in double digits.
Madeline Christenson and Ella Hassler each chipped in six points for the visitors.
West De Pere plays three more nonconference games before opening Bay Conference action on Dec. 2 when it hosts Green Bay East.
Pulaski opens Fox River Classic Conference play on Dec. 2 when it hosts De Pere.
By Rich Palzewic