Slow start, foul trouble doom Wildcats in state championship



            Blair-Taylor’s Lindsay Stein got around Chippewa Falls McDonell Central’s Aubrey Dorn for a basket in the state championship game on Saturday.         (Times photograph by Andrew Dannehy)


“The opportunity to go get that gold ball… you always dream about it,” Blair-Taylor coach Jesse Lien said after his team fell to Chippewa Falls McDonell Central in the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association State Championship game in Green Bay on Saturday. 

That dream of winning the gold ball didn’t come true for the Wildcats, but they still brought home some hardware, taking second in the state tournament and bringing a silver ball to Blair. 

“We went out strong and we’re bringing home some hardware,” senior Abby Thompson said. 

A day after B-T got off to a fast start and cruising to a win over Wabeno/Laona in the semifinal game, the Wildcats had a difficult time getting started against McDonell.

“Kudos to them,” Lien said. “They did a heck of a job face-guarding and really making it difficult.”

The Wildcats eventually got on track and, after trailing by double digits in the first half, tied the game in the second. Then the fouls started to come; four of B-T’s top five players ended the game with four fouls. The Macks made 16 free throws in the second half alone, while B-T didn’t have a single attempt in the game. 

The team finished the season with a 28-2 record, the second straight season they’ve had just two losses. With Friday’s win, they became the first girls basketball team from Trempealeau County to win a game at the State Tournament. 

The Wildcats will graduate eight seniors, who helped lead the program to four conference championships and a 90-14 record the last four years. 

B-T 55 W/L 26

As hard as they tried, nothing could prepare Wabeno/Laona for their game against Blair-Taylor in Friday’s Division Five State Semifinal game. 

The Wildcats took control of the game early as Lindsay Steien and Abby Thompson scored inside before Kierstyn Kindschy knocked down a three pointer to put B-T ahead 7-0 and spark a W/L time out.

The Rebels got on the board, but the Wildcats kept coming. Thompson scored eight straight B-T points to put her team ahead 17-4 with 9:42 left in the first half. W/L coach Andrew Harrison said he knew the Wildcats were good, but no amount of tape or statistics could fully show his team what they would be going against.

“We knew what we were getting into, we knew they were going to be a handful,” Harrison said. “But we can’t prepare our girls for that, as best as we try… their quickness, their skill.”

Both coaches agreed that the Wildcats set the tone for the game early, which is exactly what B-T wanted. 

“We wanted to be fast, we wanted to be quick, get off to a good start, hit those open shots,” Lien said. 

Thompson and Steien both said they take it upon themselves to get their team going.

“We’re always talking about how we want to push the ball and take control of the game right from the start,” Steien said. 

The Rebels stopped the run with a free throw, but Kindschy hit consecutive three pointers before Fremstad scored to put the Wildcats ahead by 20. Steien made it a 10-0 run with a basket that made the score 27-5 with about six minutes left in the half.

Thompson led the Wildcats with 18 points, while Steien added 16.

With as much attention as Steien and Thompson receive from opponents, Lien said it is important for the other players to fill their roles.

“They know when it’s time for them to stop up and hit the shot when it’s open,” Lien said. “Accepting those roles is what we walk about. Play as hard as you can when you’re on the floor, do your job and we’ll come out on top that way.”

B-T took a 31-12 lead into halftime, they struggled offensively early in the second half, but their defense didn’t allow W/L back in the game.

“Defensively, we just really like talking about getting touches, getting steals off of those touches and then the run-out,” Lien said. “That puts pressure on them to really have to work hard to get back and tires the other team out a lot.”

The Wildcats forced 24 W/L turnovers as both Thompson and Steien had six steals. 

Lien credited post players Fremstad and Andrea Waldera for helping the Wildcats keep the Rebels in check.

“Sydney was everywhere tonight,” Lien said. “She came home with a bunch of band aids and stuff on her arms and legs and she was diving for balls… Andrea is long and gets those blocks.”

Fremstad led the Wildcats with 11 rebounds, while adding five steals. Waldera blocked six shots, one shy of a state tournament game record. 

The Wildcats started one-for-seven from the field in the second half, but still held a 17-point lead before Lexi Lofgren drilled a three pointer with about 12 minutes left. 

B-T continued to build up its lead, responding to every W/L run as they pulled away to win by 29.

B-T (field goals/attempts-free throws/attempts-rebounds-fouls-points) — Fremstad 2/7-1/1-11-0-6 Thompson 8/19-0/0-3-0-18 Steien 5/15-5/6-4-0-16 Kindschy 3/6-0/0-3-1-9 Lofgren 2/7-0/0-7-2-5 Waldera 1/3-0/0-4-1-2 Kidd 0/2-0/0-2-0-0 Wagner 0/0-0/0-0-1-0 L. Frederixon 0/0-0/0-0-1-0 Beck 0/0-0/1-0-0-0

CFMC 61 B-T 46

The Wildcats battled to get back in the game, but missed shots and fouls added up and the Macks pulled away before the final buzzer.

Chippewa Falls scored the first seven points in the game and took a 10-point lead about nine minutes in. They led by 11 at 21-10 before B-T began making its move.

A basket by Steien cut the lead to nine before Thompson knocked down a three to make the score 21-15 with about five minutes left in the half. Kindschy made two three pointers, the second of which kept the deficit at six. Lexi Lofgren scored to make it a four-point game at 27-23, which is where the score stood at halftime.

“We got off to a bit of a slow start, but they fought back like crazy,” Lien said. “Getting back within four at halftime after they were down pretty big shows a lot of character.”

The Wildcats weren’t done yet, Thompson and Steien scored to start the second half, tying the game at 27.

“We came here to fight, we came here to play and that’s what we did,” Thompson said. 

But B-T was never able to take the lead. McDonell scored on the next possession to regain an advantage. A free throw put them ahead by three before Marley Hughes knocked down a three pointer to double the lead. 

The Wildcats kept fighting, baskets by Thompson and Steien got B-T back within two at 33-31 with 13 minutes left in the game. B-T still trailed by two after a jumper by Thompson, but the fouls started to add up.

Thompson picked up her third foul of the game — making her the fourth B-T player with at least three fouls with 12 minutes left in the game. Two free throws and a layup by McDonell’s Aubrey Dorn put the Macks back ahead by six. Seven of McDonell’s next nine points came at the free-throw line as they built up 48-36 lead. 

Steien scored five straight to cut the lead back down to seven, but a three-point play by McDonell’s Isabel Hartman and another free throw put the team back ahead by 11 with six minutes left.

“They just had one more gear and they took it to us a little bit,” Lien said. “But the girls fought, fought, fought right down to the end, I couldn’t be prouder of them.” 

B-T had three more made field goals than McDonell, but the Wildcats did not attempt a single free-throw in the game, while the Macks shot 23-for-28 from the charity stripe. 

“They were aggressive taking it to the hole,” Lien said. “We had to try to stop that. When we got into a little foul trouble early, the bench did a nice job coming in and helping out through the first half.” 

B-T was called for 22 fouls in the game as Lofgren fouled out while Waldera, Thompson and Fremstad all had four fouls. 

The Wildcats missed seven straight shots as the Macks’ lead ballooned to 18. 

Outside of the foul discrepancy, the teams were mostly even. The Wildcats shot 39.2 percent compared to 41.5 percent for the Macks. McDonnell also had a 32-24 advantage rebounding, in part because B-T’s Fremstad was only able to play 15 minutes due to foul trouble.

Dorn led the Macks with 16 points and 10 rebounds. Hughes and Emily Cooper both scored 14 and Hartman finished with 10.

Steien and Thompson combined for seven points in the first half, but both finished with 15 in the game. Waldera scored six points early in the first half to help keep the Wildcats in the game, while Kindschy also finished with six and Lofgren added four. 

Thompson also led B-T in rebounds and assists, with six in each category. Steien had five rebounds and five assists.

B-T (field goals/attempts-free throws/attempts-rebounds-fouls-points) — Fremstad 0/3-0/0-1-4-0 Thompson 6/13-0/0-6-4-15 Steien 7/15-0/0-5-2-15 Kindschy 2/10-0/0-3-3-6 Lofgren 2/4-0/0-3-5-4 Waldera 3/4-0/0-1-4-6 Kidd 0/2-0/0-0-0-0 Wagner 0/0-0/0-1-0-0

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