Three free throws.
That’s all the offense the Waupaca Comet girls’ basketball team could muster Thursday, Jan. 12, in the first quarter of its Eastern Valley Conference matchup with Freedom.
However, the Comets were able to stay within striking distance for most of the game before coming out on the short end of a 54-45 final.
The loss snapped Waupaca’s two-game winning streak as the Comets fell to 2-4 in the EVC and 2-7 overall.
Both teams struggled from the floor, especially in the first half.
Freedom took a 10-3 lead into the second quarter and led 23-19 at halftime. Waupaca’s first basket, Courtney Schmidt’s three-pointer, came with 5:17 remaining in the first half. The Comets eventually cut Freedom’s lead to 21-19 just before halftime, but never got any closer.
The Irish opened the second half with a 7-2 run to take a 29-21 lead, but the Comets were able to trim the deficit to 36-31 heading into the final period.
The Comets played most of the game without Morgan Smith, who left the game with 2:09 remaining in the first quarter with an ankle injury and didn’t return. Teammate Katie Barlow went down with another ankle injury late in the game and the Comets finished the contest with four players on the court.
“We fought really hard and had a lot of adversity to face,” coach Brandon Temperly said. “I’m proud of the girls because they never gave up.”
The teams combined for 49 fouls and 63 trips to the free-throw line.
Waupaca hit 17 of 28 free throws, while the Irish made 20 of 35.
“We shot our free throws well, but we had a couple of turnovers at the start and hadn’t adapted to the game yet,” Temperly said. “It was big when Morgan went down because she has really been coming on strong lately. That was a tough thing to swallow for everybody.”
On the other hand, Lexie Marringa returned to the lineup after leaving the Comets’ win Jan. 3 with a concussion and came off of the bench to lead Waupaca with 11 points.
“It’s nice to have her back,” Temperly said of Marringa, who sat out the Comets’ Jan. 6 win over Clintonville. “She came back and worked really hard.”
Mikaila Johnson added 10 points for Waupaca and Schmidt chipped in with nine. Liz Bloy and Kim Runge led Freedom with 15 each.