VERONA — As much as a team can study and practice dealing with defensive pressure, it doesn’t compare to the real thing.
The Central Wisconsin Christian girls basketball team found that out the hard way Thursday night at Verona High School as the Crusaders succumbed to the defensive onslaught of Black Hawk in a 46-22 loss in the WIAA Division 5 sectional semifinals.
“We talked about it in practice and film session, but it’s nothing like it when you get on the floor,” CWC coach Charlie Mulder said of the top-seeded Warriors’ high-pressure defense. “It’s a different animal.”
The third-seeded Crusaders (21-5) were able to get past the Warriors early on. Junior Melissa Van Den Berg, who scored a team-high nine points, notched a pair of layups to give CWC a 4-2 lead with 15 minutes remaining.
The Warriors (26-0), the top-ranked team in Division 5 in the final WisSports.net coaches poll, began to lock down from there, however. Black Hawk clamped down over the next 7-plus minutes, reeling off a 13-0 run to take a 15-4 lead with 7:45 left in the first half.
During that span, the Crusaders committed seven turnovers. And when they were successful in getting a shot, they came up empty on three possessions.
“It was a struggle to handle the ball,” Mulder said. “They’re very good at what they do. Not even in the full court, but the half court too, and if you don’t throw a sharp pass, they’re all over it with their quickness.”
Another layup by Van Den Berg stopped the bleeding and cut the Warriors’ lead to 15-6 with 7:30 to go. Van Den Berg then made of two free throws and a hook shot by senior Makayla De Young trimmed the lead to 15-9 with 5:55 remaining, but the Warriors answered.
After back-to-back 3-pointers by freshman Bailey Butler, who scored 10 points, sophomore Hannah Butler added a layup to give Black Hawk a 23-9 lead with 2:15 left in the half. Another Van Den Berg layup cut the deficit to 23-11 with just under 30 seconds left in the half but a Bailey Butler putback at the buzzer sent the Warriors into the break with a 25-11 lead.
Black Hawk built off of that out of the intermission, scoring the first nine points of the half, capped off by a 3-pointer by junior Sydney Delzer, to take a 34-11 lead with 13:55 left to play. Adding to the Crusaders’ woes was the team’s inability to hit shots, misfiring on three of their first six possessions and committing turnovers on the other three.
“They got that bucket at the buzzer and it took some of our momentum away,” Mulder said. “In the second half, they got that separation more than we wanted to and it’s that constant pressure.”
A De Young bucket cut the lead back to 34-13 with 13:30 left but the Crusaders didn’t get closer the rest of the game. Black Hawk continued to keep CWC under its thumb, responding to the De Young bucket with an 8-1 run to take a 42-14 lead with just under 9 minutes left before closing things out.
The Crusaders’ top two scorers, junior Claire Jansen and De Young, struggled as the pair — who normally average a combined 22.3 points — was held to just 10. In addition to a stifling defense, the undersized Warriors were strong on the glass.
“They’re very athletic and they’re fundamental with how they box out our bigs,” Mulder said. “It was a rebound and if they didn’t have a putback, they kicked out for a 3 and they made us pay.”
It was a bitter end to a sweet season for CWC, which upset traditional powers Barneveld and Fall River en route to winning the regional title.
“I know every coach says this, but I have a great group of girls and I love them all,” Mulder said. “We’ve had a great run to win regionals; it was a great last weekend, a fun atmosphere around school and a great ride.”
BLACK HAWK 46, CENTRAL WISCONSIN CHRISTIAN 22
Central Wisconsin Christian 11 11 — 22
Black Hawk 25 21 — 46
CENTRAL WISCONSIN CHRISTIAN — Van Den Berg 4 1-2 9, De Young 2 1-2 5, Jansen 1 3-4 5, Schouten 1 0-1 2, Zuhlke 0 1-2 1. Totals 8 6-11 22.
BLACK HAWK — Leuzinger 6 2-2 15, B. Butler 4 0-0 10, H. Butler 3 2-2 8, Herbst 3 0-0 6, Delzer 1 0-0 3, Hagen 1 0-0 2, Argall 1 0-0 2. Totals 19 4-4 46.
3-point goals — CWC 0, BH 4 (B. Butler 2, Leuzinger 1, Delzer 1). Total fouls — CWC 8, BH 15.