By Rich Palzewic
DE PERE – Behind the 1-2 punch of sophomore Madisyn Berggren and senior Katie Waukau, the West De Pere girls’ basketball team pulled away in the second half during a 65-39 Bay Conference victory over Seymour on Dec. 20.
Hitting her first five shots of the game, Berggren scored 16 first-half points before Waukau scored 15 in the second half to help the Phantoms improve to 9-1 overall and 5-0 in the Bay Conference.
Waukau led all scorers with 21 points, while Berggren added 19.
“The first half, we didn’t look so good,” West De Pere coach Chris Abaray said. “We forced too many things and didn’t create many advantages for us. We made some adjustments at halftime and played solid defense. The girls responded and did a heck of a job.”
Abaray said his team has a lot of shooting options so teams can’t focus on one or two girls.
“Madisyn and Katie are our two wings, and they have the ability to knock down shots,” he said. “When one of those girls is hot, you still have to account for the other one. It’s an awesome thing for us because it also opens things in the middle.”
Berggren’s four first-half 3-pointers helped the Phantoms grab a 31-24 lead at the break.
“It all started with knowing we had to get a better run in the first half,” Berggren said. “Once my first shot went in, it gave me the confidence to keep shooting.”
Berggren scored 14 points in the first nine minutes of the game.
West De Pere jumped out to a 10-2 lead, only to see the Thunder (2-8 overall, 1-4 Bay) claw its way back later in the half.
After Seymour’s Alayna VanDeHei hit a bucket to make it 26-22, Phantoms guard Faith Walder nailed a 3-pointer to bump the lead to seven.
In total, six Phantoms scored in the opening half.
“We slowed things down and played good defense in the first half,” Seymour coach Ryan Goltz said. “It was a solid first half.”
To begin the second 18 minutes of play, Waukau — who tallied six first-half points — took over.
She hit a 3-pointer to open the half and then followed that up with two more 3s, a pair of two-point buckets and two free throws to help West De Pere bolt out to a 57-28 lead.
The Phantoms outscored the Thunder in the second half, 34-15.
“I also felt more confident after I made my first bucket (in the second half),” Waukau said. “The sophomores are really good leaders already, so it’s easy to take the role I do and be teammates with them.”
With about 7 1/2 minutes remaining in the game, Abaray removed most of his starters and played his reserves.
“We’re happy with our record, but we’re not totally pleased with how we’ve played,” Abaray said. “We have to get better defensively. Offensively, we’ve played well in pockets, but we have to get more consistent. It’s encouraging to be 9-1, for sure.”
Sophomore Faith Walder added 12 points for West De Pere, including a pair of 3-pointers.
Heather Krause and VanDeHei each scored eight points to lead the Thunder, who have only three seniors on its roster.
“In the second half, we got a bit tired, and West De Pere buried some shots,” Goltz said. “They are a very good shooting team — the best in the conference.”
Goltz said despite his team’s youth and slow start to the season, he feels the team is trending in the right direction.
“It’s been an up-and-down season — we’re struggling with our scoring,” he said. “We’ve played decent defense. We just have to keep working and get better.”
By Rich Palzewic