Tigers’ defense keys rout in tourney semis

by Greg Ceilley
of The Review staff


ADDI GERBER of Howards Grove shoots over Manitowoc Lutheran’s Grace Melso in Thursday’s BEC Girls Basketball Tourney semifinals. The Lancers’ Emily Behnke helps defend. – Photo by Terry Schaller ADDI GERBER of Howards Grove shoots over Manitowoc Lutheran’s Grace Melso in Thursday’s BEC Girls Basketball Tourney semifinals. The Lancers’ Emily Behnke helps defend. – Photo by Terry Schaller HOWARDS GROVE – A stifling defense sparked the Howards Grove Tigers to 60-34 dismantling of Manitowoc Lutheran in the Big East Conference Girls Basketball Tournament semifinals here Thursday night.

The No. 1-seeded Tigers, ranked No. 6 in the Associated Press Division 4 poll, improved to 19-1 and extended their winning streak to 18. The No. 4-seeded Lancers slipped to 16-5.

The Tigers’ pressing, trapping defense forced 19 Lancer turnovers, including 12 in the first half. HG converted several turnovers into baskets. The Tigers allowed few open shots en route to holding Lutheran to only 30-percent shooting (13 of 44) from the field.

HG held the Lancers’ top-two scorers this season in Grace Melso and Emily Behnke to only five points each. Behnke, a 6-foot-2 forward, and Melso, a guard, were averaging 11 and 10 points per game, respectively, coming into Thursday’s contest.


KAITLYNN NEAR (lower right) of Howards Grove and an unidentified Manitowoc Lutheran player hustle after a loose ball in Thursday’s BEC Girls Basketball Tourney semifinals. Lutheran’s Maddie Schleis watches. – Photo by Terry Schaller KAITLYNN NEAR (lower right) of Howards Grove and an unidentified Manitowoc Lutheran player hustle after a loose ball in Thursday’s BEC Girls Basketball Tourney semifinals. Lutheran’s Maddie Schleis watches. – Photo by Terry Schaller “I’m very happy [with the team’s performance]. We shot well and our defense was really good,” said Tiger senior guard Kaitlynn Near.

“We were always on help-side [defense] and pinched the gaps whenever they tried to drive. We anticipated the passes and got steals. Our 2-2-1 press was really good. We got traps and steals. We made them play fast which helped us.”

The Tigers jumped out to a 14-2 lead about six minutes into the game and were in command the rest of the way. HG’s defense forced seven turnovers during this stretch, including four steals. Addi Gerber and Olivia Stauss scored five points each to lead the surge, including one threepointer apiece.

A 9-0 run pushed the Tigers’ advantage to 23-7 with 10:01 left in the first half. Brittany Schaller keyed the spurt with five points on a perimeter shot and a three-point play on a layup after a steal by Gerber. HG led 28-15 at halftime.

The Tigers broke the game open with a 15-6 run in the first six minutes of the second half to mount a 43-21 lead. Schaller ignited the spurt with seven points on a two driving layups and a trey.

HG shot a sizzling 67 percent (12 of 18) from the field in the second half which saw the Tigers outscore the Lancers 32-19.

“It was just total team defense. We know they’re balanced [on offense] and we did a good job of staying home and with our help-side and with the pinch,” said Tiger head coach Heidi Georgeff.

“We did a good job on defensive rebounding. We did a good job of not allowing second shots.

“We did a good job of attacking the basket. We did a good job of getting Behnke out of the inside [on defense] which opened up driving lanes for us. I’m pleased overall [with the team’s performance].

Schaller scored a game-high 21 points. Three other Tigers hit double figures with 10 each – Sam Yancy, Kaitlynn Near and Gerber.

Schaller also led HG in assists with six and shared the lead in steals with Yancy at four each. The Tigers had an outstanding 14 steals.

Yancy paced the Tigers on the boards with eight rebounds, followed by Gerber with six and Ashley Reinemann with five.

Abby Hiller led Lutheran in scoring with six.


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