HARTFORD — The Beaver Dam prep girls basketball team went into Thursday night’s WIAA Division 2 sectional semifinal vs. Milwaukee Vincent having beaten every Wisconsin opponent by at least 13 points — and most by a lot more than that.
But when Golden Beavers junior Paige Schumann went to the free throw line with 8 seconds left vs. the Vikings, Beaver Dam was nursing the most precarious of leads — a single point.
Schumann made the first foul shot but missed the second, giving Vincent one last opportunity to dethrone the reigning Division 2 state champions. But an errant pass ended in the body of Beaver Dam’s Aly Van Loo, and just like that the threat was over and the top-seeded Beavers escaped with a 43-41 victory at Hartford High School.
Beaver Dam head coach Tim Chase said Van Loo’s steal was “relief” for his team.
“It’s one of those games where there’s only eight seconds left and you’re only up two, and somebody hits a 3, you could be going home,” Chase said.
The Beavers, who came into game averaging nearly 75 points per contest, had to lean on their defense with their own shots not falling. Beaver Dam junior Tara Stauffacher, a University of Wisconsin recruit, was her team’s only player in double figures with 13 points, but she was even more impressive on the other side of the ball where she helped hold Vincent’s third-leading scorer, Kathryn Kirkwood, without a point.
“The job that Tara and Maryn (Ferron) did on Kathryn Kirkwood holding her scoreless — she averages about 15 a game — was awesome,” Chase said. “I thought we did a real good job on Savanna Crockett. Maty Wilke was on her a lot with Natalie Jens and Aly Van Loo a little bit. Tonight it was our defense. Our defense won us this game.”
Beaver Dam jumped out to an 18-4 lead in the first 11 minutes, 13 seconds of the game as both teams’ defense frustrated their opponent. Crockett, a 6-foot-1 power forward, had multiple blocks, while Beaver Dam’s full-court press forced several turnovers.
“They’re really talented and they can play great D, and they can move their feet,” Schumann said. “They’re talented at both ends of the floor.”
The Vikings did not let Beaver Dam run away, and cut their deficit to 10 by halftime. Vincent maintained momentum coming out of the break, starting the second half on an 8-2 run to pull within 28-24 with 15:33 left to play.
“They did really good after the half, coming out strong,” Schumann said. “They kept with us the whole time, so it was a real good battle.”
Crockett’s putback cut Beaver Dam’s lead to 33-30 before Wilke got a layup to drop with 12:15 left. And after Ariel Kirkwood — who matched Crockett with a team-high 13 points — sank a jumper moments later, Stauffacher responded with a 3-pointer in front of the Beaver Dam bench to put her team up 38-32 lead with 10 minutes left.
“Vincent’s got some great players,” Chase said. “They did some great things and we had a hard time scoring. Defensively, I thought our effort was outstanding. I thought we did a real good job the whole game. Offensively, we’ve got to do a little bit better, but at this time of year you just want to advance. That’s all that we (want).”
Beaver Dam held Vincent at bay over the next 8 minutes, and Schumann drained two free throws with 1:38 left to give the Beavers a 42-36 lead. Kirkwood scored on a layup 12 seconds later, and Crockett did the same with 50 seconds left to pull the Vikings to within 42-40. Crockett went to the line with 26.7 seconds left and made one of two free throws to make it a one-point game.
Chase called a timeout with 24.6 seconds left. Van Loo said he told the team to stay calm with the ball.
“He just said we just got to play our game and keep focus and keep cool,” she said. “We got this.”
Beaver Dam tried to let the clock run down as much as it could before Vincent fouled Schumann with 8.1 seconds left, and the 5-6 point guard provided a little extra cushion with the first free throw before misfiring on the second.
“We relaxed a little, but we knew that for whatever reason she missed — and she did — we had to attack the glass and make sure they didn’t get another shot,” Stauffacher said. “Another opportunity means another chance for them to win.”
Van Loo never gave the Vikings a chance.
“It was so big. I’m so happy for her,” Stauffacher said, shaking as she talked. “She was playing out of her mind. She was so strong. I’m really proud.”
BEAVER DAM 43, MILWAUKEE VINCENT 41
Milwaukee Vincent 16 25 — 41
Beaver Dam 26 17 — 43
Milwaukee Vincent (41) — Savanna Crockett 13, Nelida Colon-Rodriguez 6, Ariel Kirkwood 13, Tay Hawthorne 2, Faith Finch 5, Arlaysia Braggs 2. TOTALS (FGS FTM-FTA PTS): 18 3-7 41.
Beaver Dam (43) — Natalie Jens 4, Paige Schumann 6, Jada Donaldson 2, Afton Bartol 4, Maty Wilke 4, Maryn Ferron 6, Tara Stauffacher 13, Aly Van Loo 4. TOTALS (FGS FTM-FTA PTS): 16 6-12 43.
3-pointers: MV 2 (Ariel Kirkwood 1, Faith Finch 1), BD 5 (Tara Stauffacher 3, Maryn Ferron 2). Total fouls: MV 15, BD 11.