Wildcats advance after missed buzzer-beater
Hillsboro was surging to the finish as what was a nine-point Blair-Taylor lead with four minutes remaining in the game was in jeopardy while Kyra Bisarek’s potential game-winning three pointer hanging in the air.
“Oh God, don’t go in, please don’t go in,” B-T coach Jesse Lien thought.
His prayer was answered. The shot went off the rim and bounced to the floor as the buzzer sounded. The Wildcats held on for a 57-55 win and advanced to play Belmont in the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association Division Five Sectional Final on Friday.
“We were right there in her face and we got to take our chance that she doesn’t make a 30 footer like that and off the iron it went,” Lien said.
It was the second time B-T had surrendered a big lead as the Wildcats took an 11-point lead into halftime only to see Hillsboro pound the ball inside to six-foot-four Violet Morren for eight points as part of a 12-3 run to open the second half and tie the game.
The teams went back and forth as the game was tied again at 39 and at 41 before B-T got two straight baskets by Lexi Lofgren and Lindsay Steien to open up a four-point lead with 9:20 remaining.
After two free throws by Morren, Lofgren and Steien scored again then Abby Thompson got a layup off of a steal to put the Wildcats ahead by eight with less than eight minutes remaining.
Steien connected on a jump shot a few possessions later that gave B-T a 55-46 lead with 4:04 left, but the Tigers had another run in them.
Hillsboro’s Lexie Thorson scored to cut into the lead before Bisarek got inside for a layup to make the score 55-50.
A three-point possession seemed to turn the tide for the Tigers as Bisarek made a free throw that made it a four-point game. She missed the second, but the ball went out of bounds off of B-T. The Tigers got the ball inside to Morren, who converted to make the score 55-53 with about two minutes left.
B-T began playing keep away at that point. The Wildcats moved the ball around the perimeter before Hillsboro was forced to foul. Eventually, Thompson was sent to the free-throw line for B-T and she sank both attempts to give the Wildcats a four-point lead with 22 seconds remaining.
The Tigers rushed down the floor and got the ball to Morren for a basket. Then they intentionally fouled Steien with about nine seconds left.
Steien stepped to the free-throw line in the single-bonus situation, but missed the first attempt. The Tigers got the rebound, pushed the ball down the court and got it to Bisarek, who released what could have been the game-winner, but the ball went off the rim.
“It’s a game of runs and you want the last one at the end,” Lien said. “Everything they had, we withstood it, our seniors have been here, they’ve been in these situations.”
Morren presented a match-up problem unlike the Wildcats had seen this season. She gave them trouble with 17 points in the second half, but also scored six early as her team went on a 10-2 run.
B-T made a defensive adjustment, however, turning to freshman Andrea Waldera to handle the defensive assignment. Waldera was able to use her length to challenge Morren, blocking some of her shots and forcing a few turnovers.
“She played amazing,” Lien said. “She can get around the front, be long, be physical. She’s got a little mean streak in her for being a young girl. I like it, she is learning from the older ones. She has settled into this group and I couldn’t have asked anything more from that young lady.”
With Morren neutralized, B-T was able to pressure Hillsboro’s guards and force turnovers. The Wildcats scored 10 straight points off of steals as they took a 25-15 lead. Two straight baskets by Steien put B-T ahead by 14 at one point.
Hillsboro cut the lead to eight, but Thompson knocked in a three pointer with eight seconds left in the half to give B-T a 34-23 advantage at the intermission.
Steien led the Wildcats with 22 points while Thompson added 14. Sydney Fremstad, Lofgren and Waldera all scored six and Kierstyn Kindschy added three.
B-T (26-1) will play Belmont (23-5) in Tomah on Saturday. Belmont is coming off of a 34-24 win over Kickapoo. Saturday's game is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m.