The defense was there. The shooting and ball-handling was another story, however.
Waupaca hit only nine shots and turned the ball over 32 times March 1 in a 56-34 loss to New London in a Division 2 girls’ regional semifinal.
New London, the two-time defending state champion in Division 2, went on to win a regional championship the following day with a 57-23 win over Mosinee and will now take on Hortonville at 7 tonight (Thursday, March 7) in Kimberly in a sectional semifinal. The Bulldogs have now won their last 66 games.
Waupaca, on the other hand, ended its season after opening state tournament play Feb. 26 with a 56-36 win over Shawano.
New London 56, Waupaca 34
NEW LONDON – The Bulldogs didn’t bring their “A” game to their second matchup of the season with the Comets, but eventually took control of the contest.
Shooting and turnovers turned out to be the difference, according to coach Brandon Temperly.
“That was what gave New London their opportunity, but boy, did we play well defensively until it got out of hand,” he said. “That’s a credit to our girls. We put the pressure on and they weren’t used to seeing our physicality. It was really fun watching that happen on the court. If we could’ve had some shots fall and had a little offensive confidence, maybe things would’ve been a little different.”
The Comets didn’t make a basket until Emily Williams’ three-pointer with two seconds to go in the first quarter cut New London’s lead to 10-4. The Bulldogs then outscored Waupaca 15-8 in the second quarter to take a 25-12 halftime lead and 14-5 in the third quarter to take a 39-17 lead into the final period.
“New London pressures you so hard and it kind of takes you out of what you want to try to do,” Temperly said. “I was proud of our girls for sticking with it and competing hard the whole game.”
Mikaila Johnson and Courtney Schmidt led the Comets with 15 and nine points, respectively, in their final high school game, while Brenna Heise led New London with 13.
“They have a lot of confidence on their side being the defending state champs,” Temperly said. “They play with a lot of swagger and we’re still up and coming. Our girls are taking steps every single year. Hopefully, we can keep going forward.”
Temperly likes the opportunity to take on a team like New London.
“It’s a measuring stick and I think that’s why we’ve had success in the postseason,” he said. “We have such a good conference and in my five years here, we’ve won a tournament game every single year, if not two. It’s because we play some talented teams throughout the season.
“The girls really embrace that,” he added. “They had a great week of practice and worked their tails off. I was proud of how they got better toward the end of the season.”
Waupaca 56, Shawano 36
SHAWANO – The Comets outscored the Hawks in three of the four quarters.
Waupaca used an 11-0 run to take a 17-6 lead into the second quarter and led 34-12 at halftime.
The Hawks trailed by as many as 22 points in the third quarter, but Whitney Boda scored 10 of the Hawks’ points in an 11-0 run that cut Waupaca’s lead to 40-29 heading into the final period.
The comeback came up short, however, as the Hawks never got any closer down the stretch.
“The kids had a ton of energy, not necessarily on the bus, but in the locker room,” Temperly said. “We didn’t build a big lead, but we played great defense. We couldn’t get shots to fall and couldn’t take care of the ball at the start, but we relied on that defense and that kept us in it the whole time.”
There weren’t many fouls called in the game, which Temperly said fell in his team’s favor.
“We’ve had a number of games that have been like this,” he said. “Honestly, it would have been a bigger adjustment for our girls is it was a tightly called game. They don’t seem to get too bent out of shape about it.”
Johnson and Schmidt led the Comets with 14 and 12 points, respectively, while Boda led Shawano with 14 in her final high school game.
“We had a really good week of practice and the scout team was absolutely great,” Temperly said. “They really bought into showing us what Shawano was going to do. It was a team win.”
The Comets ended their season with an 8-16 record.
“Every season is a different journey,” Temperly said. “It took us awhile to get going, but once we did, there were some great games that we played. That was fun to be part of.”
Waupaca is only losing two seniors in Johnson and Schmidt.
“They gave it their all,” Temperly said. “They have a passion for the game and they both want to pursue it after their high school career is done. Coaching kids like that is why we are in education and are coaches. Watching their progress and how much they’ve improved has been a blast. It’s always tough to say goodbye to those kids when they work so hard.”
On the other hand, Temperly will have experienced players back next season.
“I’m excited,” he said. “There are girls that have seen not only significant minutes, but now they’ve seen a couple tournament games. It’s going to be a challenge for us to have a great summer and a good fall and get ready for another great year.”