Tigers earn third straight regional title

by Matt Kraus
Review Co respondent

OLIVIA STAUSS of Howards Grove tries to score against Laconia’s McKayla Johnson (right) in Saturday night’s regional basketball finals. – Photo by Terry Schaller OLIVIA STAUSS of Howards Grove tries to score against Laconia’s McKayla Johnson (right) in Saturday night’s regional basketball finals. – Photo by Terry Schaller HOWARDS GROVE – The Howards Grove Tigers, ranked No. 6 in Division 4 girls basketball by the Associated Press, hosted the No. 4-rated Laconia Spartans for a trip to the sectional tournament.

A match-up like this would be expected during a sectional final or at state but this regional final did not disappoint in excitement and an expected close battle.

Ultimately, the home court prevailed and the Tigers left HG High school with a 50-47 victory and a sectional match-up with St. Mary’s Springs (Fond du Lac). The semifinal game is set for Thursday in West Bend at 7 p.m.

Springs was an upset winner over Oshkosh Lourdes (58-56), the No. 2- ranked team in D-4, in a regional final Saturday night.

The Tigers, winners of 22 in a row, improved to 23-1 while Laconia finished 22-2. The regional title is HG’s third straight.

“We haven’t been challenged like this the past two years in regional finals,” said Tiger senior forward Sam Yancy.

As expected the game was a back-and-forth battle, with both teams putting their pressure defenses on display. The Spartans’ physical style of play caught up with them, with three players fouling out late in the game. Although both teams committed many fouls, as evidenced by the combined 59 trips to the free-throw line, the Tigers’ deep bench allowed for a single player getting into significant foul trouble.

With the game tied 33-33, Olivia Stauss blocked a shot and the Tigers’ pushed the ball up the court. Taylor Bubolz capitalized putting in a bank shot to start a 7-0 run for the Tigers, giving them a 40-33 lead. Following a Laconia timeout and turnover, Caitlin Schmid found Olivia Stauss wide open under the hoop for a lay-in.

As the players scrambled on the floor, near half-court for a loose ball, Laconia was able to gain possession and called another timeout. HG’s Brittany Schaller picked up a steal after the timeout and found Addi Gerber for a three-pointer and a 40-33 Tigers’ lead with 4:42 remaining in the game.

The teams exchanged single free throws before Laconia made 3 of 4 free throws on their next two possessions to cut the lead to 41-38.

Laconia began to foul the Tigers as HG became more methodical on offense and tried to run the clock out. Going 4-for-6 from the freethrow line the Tigers were once again up 45-37 with 1:40 remaining.

Laconia was not finished and made two free throws. Sophomore guard Kiarra Otto, who caused numerous problems for the Tigers as the point of the Spartans 1-3-1 zone defense, deflected an inbound pass. Alissa Dins came up with a steal and layup to cut the Tigers lead to three points.

Gerber made a free throw for the Tigers to open a four-point lead. Caitlin Tipton’s two free throws cut HG’s lead to 46-44.

The Tigers were unable to convert two free throw attempts with one minute remaining.

With the Tigers leading 46-44, center, Dins fouled out after being a major disruption for the Tigers’ inside game. Dins and the Spartans played a physical style on offense and defense that was expected by the Tigers.

“We knew they played a physical style and prepared for it. Having Dins in foul trouble was huge for us,” said Tiger head coach Heidi Georgeff.

“I don’t like the physical play but we knew it was coming. Coach [Georgeff] brought in the boys [from the Tigers’ basketball team] to practice against us and get us ready for a physical game,” said Yancy.

Yancy made one free throw after being fouled on the inbounds play, making it 47-44. Missing the second shot, the Tigers received a break when the ball went out of bounds off of a Laconia player.

Stauss was fouled after receiving the inbounds pass and then made two free throws, giving the Tigers a 49-44 lead.

Otto pushed the ball up the floor for the Spartans and hit a threepointer with eight seconds remaining to make it 49-47. The Tigers were forced to call a timeout when they couldn’t inbound the ball.

Stauss was fouled during the inbound attempt and made the first of two free throws for a 50-47 lead. Otto grabbed the rebound on the missed second free throw. Pushing the ball up the court, time expired before she was able to get a final shot off.

“Our seniors keep us balanced. Tonight Olivia, Sam and Brittany all had 10 points, and Kaitlynn [Near] had nine,” said Georgeff.

The Tigers picked up 10 team steals, led by Schaller, Stauss, Yancy and Near with two each.

Ashley Reinemann had four assists to lead the team. Yancy had a team-high 10 rebounds.

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