Sixty-eight and counting. That’s how many games the New London girls’ basketball team has won since the Bulldogs dropped a 41-26 Bay Conference decision Jan. 28, 2011, to Luxemburg Casco.
Those 68 wins include victories in the last two Division 2 state championship games. The Bulldogs’ chances for a third straight title are alive and well, thanks to sectional victories over La Crosse Logan and Hortonville. New London handed Logan a 57-44 defeat March 9 in a sectional final in Marshfield, two days after defeating Hortonville 44-29 in the semifinal round.
The 26-0 Bulldogs will now face New Berlin Eisenhower (24-2) at approximately 3:15 p.m. Friday, March 15, in a state semifinal at the Resch Center in Green Bay, the new home of the WIAA girls’ state tournament.
The winner of that game will play Green Bay Notre Dame or Milton at 6:35 p.m. Saturday, March 16, for a state title.
New London 57, La Crosse Logan 44
A trio of three pointers in the second half helped New London increase its lead over the Rangers from five to 14 points.
The Bulldogs used an 11-0 run to take a 16-8 lead into the second quarter, but the Rangers stayed close and trailed 29-20 at halftime.
New London’s Brenna Heise, the only returning starter from last season’s team, picked up her third foul with 5:33 remaining in the third quarter and took a seat on the bench. Logan responded with a 7-0 run to tie the game at 32-32 with 3:20 to go in the quarter. Heise re-entered the game with 20 seconds to go in the period and her three-pointer that banked off of the backboard gave the Bulldogs a 40-32 lead heading into the final eight minutes.
“I didn’t know if I wanted to put her in at the end of the third quarter, but I knew if I wanted the ball in someone’s hands, it was going to be hers,” coach Andrea Flease said. “I guess the bank’s open on Saturday. A three’s a three. It counts.”
That wasn’t the only big shot the Bulldogs came up with, as New London opened the fourth quarter with threes from Amber Pethke and Mickey Roland to give the Bulldogs their biggest lead of the game, 14 points.
Logan never got any closer than six points the rest of the way.
“Basketball’s a game of runs,” Flease said. “We had more runs and that’s what got us the win.”
Roland and Heise led the Bulldogs with 19 and 14 points, respectively, while Grace Onsrud led Logan with 10.
The trip to state will be the first for Flease, who took over as coach this season for Troy Krause and played high school basketball in New London.
“It’s a great feeling and I’m very proud of the way they came out and played today,” she said. “They could’ve cowered down when (Logan) was being physical with them, but they didn’t do that. They gave it their all.”
The Bulldogs are heading to state with a handful of players that played in last year’s title game, including Heise, Roland and her twin sister.
“Experience is a big thing when you head down to a big stage like that, but again, there are a lot of new kids on the team,” Flease said. “We’ll see what we can do. Hopefully, our experience can lead us.”
New London 44, Hortonville 29
New London defeated Hortonville in Bay Conference matchups during the regular season by 27 and 28 points, but the Bulldogs’ defense kept the Polar Bears from pulling off the upset.
New London led 7-5 after one quarter, 19-8 at halftime and 29-16 after three quarters before outscoring the Polar Bears 15-13 over the final eight minutes.
Heise led the Bulldogs with a game-high 12 points, but had only six through three quarters after coming into the game averaging nearly 17 a game. Lexi Roland scored seven points in the first half and also finished in double figures with 11.
New London handed Eisenhower a 43-39 defeat in last year’s Division 2 championship game in Madison.
Flease and Eisenhower coach Gary Schmidt are looking forward to the matchup, but there will be some new faces from last year’s game. New London’s Tara Knapstein and Bridget Pethke are now playing college ball at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside and St. Mary’s University in Winona, Minn., respectively, while Eisenhower’s Nicole Bauman started 24 games this season as a freshman at the University of Wisconsin.
“I watched the game at state last year and a lot of people New London,” Flease said. “I’m sure they’re going to want their revenge Friday.”
“We look forward to the rematch with New London,” Schmidt said. “Rematches are a lot of fun.”
Flease said her team’s 68-game winning streak hasn’t affected her team’s performance.
“I’m really impressed with how they handle it,” she said. “They don’g go home with too big of a head. A couple of papers picked our team fifth in the conference. That motivated them.”
“We know New London is a quality program,” Schmidt said. “We know all about the long winning streak, but we have to look past that.”