A slow start and the absence of Northwestern University recruit Maya Jonas proved to be too much for the Whitefish Bay girls basketball team to overcome Thursday as the Blue Dukes (18-7) fell to Woodland Conference champion Pius XI, 62-33, in a WIAA Division 2 sectional semifinal at Greenfield High School.
Pius' Mandy Szymborski scored 11 of her game-high 16 points in the first quarter to lead the Popes to a quick double-digit advantage that quickly became insurmountable and at one point extended to 33 points in the second half.
"Pius is an outstanding team," Whitefish Bay coach Dave Markson said. "You try to take one thing away, and they beat you in another way. That's what happened tonight."
With their leading scorer and rebounder sidelined with a knee injury she suffered earlier this month, the Blue Dukes made just one of 10 shots and turned the ball over seven times in the first quarter. The Lady Popes scored the final 15 points of the period to take a 17-3 lead.
Emma Jankowski hit a 3-pointer 54 seconds into the game for the Blue Dukes, who would not score again in the first quarter. Meanwhile, Szymborski made four shots, including three drives to the basket as Pius pulled away early.
"We knew what she could do, but we probably gave her too much room to drive," Markson said. "She's a great shooter, but she was beating us off the dribble and that got them off to a good start."
Things improved slightly for Whitefish Bay in the second as 6-foot-1 junior forward Ashley Reed got involved. The agile post scored eight of her 13 points. But the Popes erased any hope by making four 3-pointers in a 21-point third quarter.
"Sometimes we do that," Pius coach Scott Herrick said. "We can't make one for who knows how long, and then we can't miss. We have to tell them to keep shooting it. They can knock them down."
Jankowski, who finished with 13 points, scored the only third-quarter basket for the Blue Dukes, who trailed, 49-16, after three.
Would things have been different with Jonas on the court rather than in street clothes? Who knows, Markson said.
"You can't change it, and you move forward with who you have," he said. "I was very confident in the girls we had tonight. They put it all on the line."
It's the second consecutive season the Popes ended the Blue Dukes' season; Pius beat Whitefish Bay at the same postseason level, 45-30, a year ago.
Pius, now winners of 13 straight, will play New Berlin Eisenhower (19-6) in the sectional final at 7 p.m. Saturday at Brookfield Central High School.
"Eisenhower is a good team," Herrick said. "They are the real deal. They're playing at their best, and I think we are too, so it should be a battle. Both teams want to win bad. The crowds will be crazy. It should be fun. I can't wait."
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