Polar Bears power on to sectional final
By Scott Bellile
Jeff Chew decided the Division 2 sectional semifinal was Hortonville’s game seconds in.
“When the ball was tipped and [Merrill] missed the opening layup. I thought, ‘OK, our game,’” the Hortonville girls’ basketball head coach said.
The No. 1-seeded Hortonville Polar Bears won 66-43 over the No. 2 Merrill Bluejays on Thursday, March 3, to advance to the sectional final.
The Polar Bears (22-3) will next face another No. 2 seed, the Onalaska Hillhoppers (20-5), at the sectional final at Eau Claire North High School on Saturday, March 5, at 1 p.m.
At Thursday’s game at Wausau East the Polar Bears came out strong in conversions and defense, according to Hortonville’s Madi Walter, who led the night’s scoring with 19 points.
“I think us seniors just really sucked up this game,” Walter said. “It’s our job to lead the team and to be that motivation factor and I think that we did a really good job with that this game.”
Hortonville’s Jenna Jalling and Shay Frederick shot a combined five three-pointers in the first half to help lift the Polar Bears. Two consecutive Frederick three-pointers created a 14-point deficit for the Bluejays.
The Bluejays fought back and closed the gap to 32-24 to end the half, which Frederick said made her nervous.
“Right before halftime we were up by 12 and led them back to [an] eight-point difference, so that was kind of worrying me coming out of halftime,” Jalling said. “But everything went well.”
Jalling said the team got in its groove in the second half and created more distance than she had expected.
In the second half, the Polar Bears built their defense while maintaining strong shooting to gradually widen the deficit to 10 points, later 18 points and eventually 23 points by game’s end.
Chew said it was a similar game compared to Hortonville’s 44-23 victory over New London in the regional final on Feb. 27.
“We just gotta do a better job with the ball,” Chew said. “[Merrill] had some people that hit a bunch of shots from the outside. We didn’t maybe rotate as well as we should have, but we did a nice job overall.”
Walter said she’s “super excited” to move on to Saturday’s sectional final in Eau Claire.
“We talked about it all season, and now we get the opportunity,” Walter said. “It’s right there in front of us. It’s just a matter of if we can execute. I’m really looking forward to it, and I think that we can.”
If the Polar Bears win the sectional final Saturday, then they’ll head to the Resch Center in Green Bay for the Division 2 semifinals of the WIAA State Tournament on Friday, March 11, at 1:35 p.m. There they will play either No. 1 Stoughton or No. 1 Union Grove, depending on which team wins a different sectional semifinal this Saturday.
Scoring: Madi Walter 19, Jenna Jalling 17, Morgan Allen 12, Shay Frederick 9, Olivia Griesbach 6, Lexy Campshure 2, Claire Van Beek 1. Three-pointers: Jalling 5, Frederick 3.