Polar Bears lose second straight
By Erik Buchinger
Hortonville lost to Kimberly at home 52-44 in a matchup between two top-10 teams in the state on Friday, Jan. 5.
The Polar Bears lost their second consecutive game to drop to 8-2 this season and lots its first conference game to fall to 6-1 in the FVA.
Kimberly was able to hold Hortonville to its lowest scoring output of the season.
“I think a big part was [Kimberly] defensively,” Hortonville head coach Celeste Ratka said. “They’re very talented, and they were making a lot of things difficult for us. Offensively, we obviously weren’t our best, but it was a big part of what they were doing.”
Hortonville’s Shay Frederick scored 13 of her team-high 18 points in the second half, and Ratka said the Polar Bears need to find scoring from other areas.
“Late in the game, I think we got a little bit one-dimensional offensively, and that allowed an already really good defensive basketball team to really lock in on us, but we’ve got to get contributions from more than one place,” Ratka said. “That’s something I told the girls at the end of the game. We’ve got to become more of a threat from multiple positions as far as scoring and carrying that load a little bit.”
Hortonville’s Hailey Wenzel scored all eight of her points consecutively to give the Polar Bears a 23-15 lead in the first half, but Kimberly responded by going on an 11-2 run to take a 26-25 halftime lead.
With the game tied at 33 in the second half, the Papermakers took advantage of a Hortonville scoring drought and extended their lead to 41-33 with seven minutes left.
Frederick snapped the drought with a three-point play, and the Polar Bears cut the lead to three, but they never got closer than that, as Kimberly pulled away late for the win.
Hortonville forwards Lexi Walter and Macy McGlone dealt with foul trouble during the game and both fouled out late.
McGlone scored 11 points in the loss.
“I thought in the first half, I liked the way we battled especially with our two posts on the bench with fouls,” Ratka said. “The one thing we didn’t do was rebound, and I thought our defensive rebounding was pretty poor tonight. I think that was a big difference in the game.”
According to Ratka, another difference maker is Hortonville’s defense late in games.
“I think we start really well, but I think late in games we break down defensively, and it’s just something you’ve got to keep spending time on,” Ratka said. “I think you get what you emphasize, and we’ve got to emphasize getting stops because that’s the difference maker.”
Despite the losses, Ratka said playing against top competition should help Hortonville going forward.
“I think it’s great to be in games like this,” Ratka said. “I think playing in the FVA prepares us extremely well for a playoff run, and these kind of games are only going to make us better. We talk about that all the time – having a positive response to adversity, and we’ve got a great chance to do that. We’ve got another tough matchup coming up, and we’ve got an opportunity to respond the right way, so I’m looking forward to seeing what we do.”
The Polar Bears will play Appleton North on Tuesday, Jan. 9 against defending Division 1 champion Appleton North, which will be Hortonville’s third consecutive top 10 opponent.
“There’s a lot of games left and a lot of practices left to get better,” Ratka said. “We’re not a finished product by any means, but I like the pieces we have. We’ve just got to keep at it.”