When your team sometimes has trouble generating a consistent offense, the last thing you as a coach want to see is a slow start.
That, however, is exactly what befell the Whitefish Bay girls basketball team in a WIAA Division 2 sectional semifinal game on Thursday evening, and the Blue Dukes paid dearly for it.
They fell behind Pius XI ,9-0, in the first 4 minutes, then spent the rest of the game trying to play catchup, which is usually not their forte.
Bay fought back to within four points but could not get over the hump and eventually lost, 46-30.
Pius improved to 22-3 and will take on New Berlin Eisenhower (23-2) at 7 p.m. Saturday at Brookfield Central in a sectional championship contest. Bay ends its season at 16-9.
The Lady Popes opened Thursday’s contest with a 3-pointer by Aaliyah Ramirez, followed by baskets from Gabby Green, Ashley Pitrof and Dallas Chladek to go up 9-0.
“We’ve been doing that lately, getting off on a big start, and that’s been holding up,” said Pius head coach Scott Herrick. “That’s big, to have that right away, and have them fight the whole game to catch up.”
Bay did not score until 2 minutes, 23 seconds remained in the first quarter on a basket from Ashley Reed.
Reed then stole the ball, which led to a 3-point shot from Maya Jonas to cut it to 9-5, but the Popes closed out the period with a 10-5 advantage.
Pius came up with four steals in the period to fuel its offense and ended the game with nine thefts, including four from the lightning-quick Green.
The lead grew to 23-9 in the second quarter before Bay’s Ava Stock netted a trey to trim the halftime deficit to 23-12.
Jonas, who finished with a game-high 18 points, started the second half with her second 3-pointer, and that ignited a 10-3 run that pulled the Dukes within 26-22 midway through the third period.
“Sometimes we’re able to put the ball in the hole and sometimes not,” Bay head coach Greg Capper said. “We then rely on our defense, and in the second half, we were able to claw back a little bit with our defense.”
Herrick also praised the Bay defense, saying, “They play great D, they’re physical, and when they had it cut to four, I thought, 'oh boy' – but we hit some big shots down the stretch.”
After a Pius timeout, Chladek nailed a 3-pointer to make it 29-22. Green then stole the ball and fed Chladek for another basket and a 9-point edge.
On the next possession, Pius picked up two offensive rebounds and on the third try, Pitrof connected from 3-point range to build the margin to 34-22.
Jonas ended the period with a 3-point play to bring her team within nine, and she started the fourth with another 3-pointer to make it 36-28, but Bay could come no closer.
Green, who totaled 15 points, drove the lane for a 3-point play and a 41-30 lead with 3:24 left, and the game was over.
Jonas, who tallied 13 second-half points and scored her team’s final 10, is coming back from a major injury.
“Any time you’re out for seven months, it’s a long haul,” Capper said,” and I feel badly for her because I’m sure she wanted to play at an even higher level. I thought she played as hard as she could and she did some nice things out there for us.”
Reed and Stock each added five points for Bay, while Ramirez and Chladek each put in nine for the Lady Popes.
“I’m very proud of this senior class,” Capper said, “because for the first time in three years, in a game of this magnitude, we actually put our heart and soul into trying to come back with a physical effort.
“Did we execute as well as we needed to, defensively, rebounding, taking care of the basketball? No, but at least, the effort was there. I’m proud of the senior class for that.”
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