Freshman too much for Amherst
By Greg Seubert
Gregg Jensen has faced just about every situation in his 33 seasons of coaching basketball at Amherst High School.
Playing for a state championship against a team that starts three freshmen isn’t one of them.
Those three freshman combined to score 47 points in Marshall’s 63-55 win over the Amherst girls’ basketball team March 10 in the WIAA Division 3 state championship game at the Resch Center.
Amherst, which finished the season with a 26-2 record, advanced to the team’s first state championship game since 2009 March 8 with a 45-32 win over St. Thomas More.
Marshall, playing in its first state championship game since the Cardinals won the Class C title in 1977, scored 12 of the game’s first 16 points to take a 12-4 lead.
Lindsay Dose gave Amherst its first lead after her basket snapped a 23-23 tie, but Marshall’s Anna Lutz gave the lead back to the Cardinals with her third three-pointer. Lauren Boelte gave the lead back to the Falcons late in the first half and Geena Jensen added a pair of free throws to give Amherst its biggest lead at 31-28, but Marshall’s Laura Nickel cut the lead to 31-30 at halftime.
Mia Morel’s three-pointer four seconds into the second half gave the Cardinals the lead for good and started a 12-0 run.
By the time Jensen scored Amherst’s first points of the second half, Marshall had a 42-33 lead.
“We got down early and I felt we did a heck of a job getting back into it,” Jensen said. “We came back a little soft in the second half and they jumped on us. Again, we did nice job coming back, but just didn’t get over that hump. They’re a very good team, but we’re a very good team, too.”
Amherst chipped away at the Cardinals’ lead and got within one point twice in the final 4:10.
A free throw from Dose made it 51-50 with 4:10 remaining and a three-pointer from Jensen with 1:04 left cut the lead to 54-53.
However, Morel hit all six of her free throws in the final 32 seconds that helped keep Marshall in front.
Ashley Groshek’s layup with 25 seconds to go cut Marshall’s lead to 57-55, but the game’s final six points came on four free throws from Morel and two more from teammate Samira Arvin.
Morel, Lutz and Nickel – all freshmen – led Marshall with 21, 16 and 10 points, respectively.
“They have a lot of weapons, four girls that can score in double figures,” coach Jensen said. “They have the ability to shoot the three-ball, so you have to close out on them. They have the ability to take it to the rim. It’s not like you can concentrate on two or three people. They have four or five that can really play. They can hurt you in a lot of ways.”
Heather Pearson finished her career in Amherst with 16 points, 11 rebounds, seven blocks and two steals.
Jensen and Boelte also finished in double figures with 13 and 10 points, respectively.
“I wanted to end my season at state,” Pearson said. “I told those girls going into the game that we play our hearts out tonight, we leave everything on the floor and they did. I’m happy with how we finished the season with the silver ball.”
Pearson will play basketball at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh after four seasons on Amherst’s varsity team. She spent most of the game guarding Lutz, who hit three of the Cardinals’ six three-pointers.
“I haven’t had to play many players like that this year,” she said. “Most of them that I play are inside. If I am guarding players outside, it’s usually the ones with a lower shooting percentage. You never know when a girls’ going to be having a hot hand. She’s a very good shooter. She can drive, she can do everything. She’s a good player.”
The Cardinals wrapped up a 27-1 season under first-year coach Alex Koeller, who graduated from Marshall in 2009.
“We are young, but we proved everybody wrong,” he said. “People were doubting us from the start that we weren’t ready to make it here. That was what we used as motivation.”