Polar Bears take down Menomonie
By Erik Buchinger
The Hortonville girls’ basketball team is headed to the WIAA state tournament for the first time in 30 years, as the Polar Bears took down Menomonie in the sectional final 74-44 in Eau Claire on Saturday, March 4.
The Polar Bears scored the first eight points of the game and never trailed, as they advanced to state for the second time in program history.
“It feels so good because these kids have worked so hard,” Hortonville’s first-year head coach Celeste Ratka said. “They put so much into it and to see things work out like this for them – life isn’t always fair, and it was fair today. I couldn’t be happier for them.”
Menomonie struggled to contain Hortonville senior Morgan Allen, who scored a game-high 27 points, was a force on the
offensive glass and made it to the free throw line 19 times, making nine of them.
“She’s been a matchup problem all year long, but she really imposed her will early on and I think that really settled our team in,” Ratka said. “We thought Morgan’s got this, and her confidence I think carried over to everybody else, so that was really fun to watch.”
Allen said she knew she had a chance for a big game dominating in the post.
“Looking at their height, I knew that I needed to post up down low and be a threat down there, and I think I got it done,” Allen said.
Hortonville junior Shay Frederick eclipsed the 1,000 career point total in the second half with a drive down the lane to the basket, and the Polar Bear fans that made the approximately three-hour trip celebrated the accomplishment.
“Honestly, I wasn’t really aware of how many points she was at,” Ratka said. “I knew she was pretty close, but what an exclamation point to a great day for her to get her 1,000th point. She’s had an amazing career so far, and I’m just thankful I get her for another year. To do this in three years is pretty remarkable. It shows the dedication and hard work that she puts into this game and for us to head to state is just icing on the cake for her.”
Frederick finished with 10 points in the victory and realized the accomplishment when the Hortonville crowd chanted “1,000.”
“My dad told me how close I was to 1,000 going into the game, but we just wanted to win,” Frederick said. “Obviously, that wasn’t the goal of this game, but it felt good when it happened. I couldn’t have done this without my teammates. They’re amazing, and I’m just so happy that we made it.”
Frederick said her team has been working all season for a chance at a state championship.
“We’ve worked so hard, and it’s just been our goal this whole time to get to state,” Frederick said. “Every day coming into practice, our goal was to get better to prepare us for something like this. The fact that we made it, it’s just really rewarding.”
Hortonville advanced to the sectional final last season and played in the same gym at Eau Claire North High School, but the Polar Bears lost 59-52 to Onalaska.
“We got here last year and lost, so we didn’t want that to happen again,” Allen said. “We worked really hard for this, and I’m very excited, and it’s going to be a great journey.”
Hortonville will play against Cudahy in the WIAA Division II state semifinals on Friday, March 10 at 1:35 p.m. at the Resch Center in Green Bay.
“It’s going to be a great atmosphere, and we’re going to be playing against great competition,” Ratka said. “I’d take this team against anybody. I trust them, and it’s just going to be a fun experience that they’re going to remember for the rest of their lives.”