Phantoms pummel Luxemburg-Casco to advance
By Rich Palzewic
DE PERE – Behind a trio of sophomores, the West De Pere girls’ basketball team is one step closer to nabbing its first WIAA Division 2 regional title since the 2017-18 season.
Sophomores Faith Walder (18 points), Ella Francois (17) and Madisyn Berggren (13) combined for 48 points in the Phantoms’ 62-22 regional win over Luxemburg-Casco (LC) on Friday night at West De Pere High School.
With the victory, the No. 3-seeded Phantoms (20-5) will travel to No. 2 Fox Valley Lutheran (FVL) Saturday night for the regional crown.
The Foxes (22-3) ended West De Pere’s season last year in the regional title game.
“We thought Fox Valley was a potential matchup for us going into regionals,” Francois said. “We’re going in with revenge on our minds. They ended our season last year here, so it’s only fair we end their season on the road this year.”
West De Pere coach Chris Abaray said if his team is to beat FVL, it must do a better job stopping Emily Jaenke and Alayna Feidt.
Last year, Jaenke pumped in 33 points and Feidt 23 against the Phantoms in the Foxes’ 70-64 victory.
“Obviously, we have to do a better job against those two,” Abaray said. “They have a few other girls who can hit some shots — we know we’re in for a battle. We’ve had a lot of home games lately, so we’re hitting the road with the hopes of bringing home a regional title against the team that ended our season last year.”
The winner of the West De Pere/Fox Valley Lutheran game will most likely have to face No. 1-ranked Notre Dame Academy — the two-time defending state champion — in the sectional
semifinals on Thursday, March 2, at Ashwaubenon High School.
After LC took its only lead of the game at 4-2, West De Pere scored nine straight points to go up 11-2.
From there, the Phantoms’ lead ballooned to 23-9 behind the 1-2 punch of Walder and Francois, who combined for 18 of the team’s first 23 points.
“We had great balance,” Abaray said. “L-C was focusing more on (senior) Katie Waukau, so that opened things up for the other girls. L-C is a well coached team, so we were a bit worried coming into this game. We thought we could wear them down a bit. Our guards got into the lane well, and when L-C started packing the paint, the perimeter was wide open. You can’t have one without the other.”
Behind Walder’s 16 points and Francois’ 10, West De Pere took a 33-17 lead into intermission. Berggren, who was saddled with two early fouls, contributed seven points before the break.
If there was any doubt after halftime, the Phantoms quickly closed the door.
West De Pere scored the first 13 points of the second half and outscored the Spartans 29-5 overall in the final 18 minutes of the game.
Overall, Berggren nailed a trio of 3-pointers, while junior Ava Hoffman hit a pair of long-range bombs late in the game for the Phantoms.
“We’ve been working hard,” Francois said. “We push each other as a team and know each other’s strengths. As a team, we’re able to do a little bit of everything. Faith and I can get to the rim, and if the shot isn’t there, we have capable shooters on the outside.”