VERONA — Cheyenne Trilling spent last season watching her Verona teammates play basketball while she was stuck on the bench alongside her older sister, Kateri, recovering from severe knee injuries that they suffered three weeks apart.
Back on the court, Cheyenne is having a lot more fun this season being a participant instead of a spectator. Especially when she can help her team win, which the junior guard did on Friday night in the Wildcats’ convincing 50-36 victory over Janesville Parker in a Big Eight Conference girls game.
“Sitting out a year with my ACL was really a downer so coming back this season was really my motivation,” Trilling said. “We both recovered from our ACLs together and had to sit out together. To be together on the court is a great experience.”
Verona junior Kira Opsal, a 6-foot-2 forward, posted a double-double with 17 points and 11 rebounds and Grace Mueller added 12 points to power the Wildcats’ inside attack.
But Verona coach Angie Murphy said improved guard play, in no small part due to the return of Cheyenne, has helped Verona (13-2 overall, 10-2 Big Eight) run off an 11-game winning streak after a 2-2 start.
“She’s elevated her game the last five games and that’s been the difference for us,” said Murphy, whose team remained tied for second in the Big Eight, 1½ games behind league leader Janesville Craig. “Kateri’s been hitting the 3-pointers and now that (Cheyenne) is also a huge threat to score, it’s tougher to double-down on us.”
Janesville Parker has been bitten by the injury bug this year, with senior guard Morgan McCulloch lost for the season with a knee injury suffered in December. McCulloch scored 17 points in the Vikings’ first meeting with Verona, a 57-52 Wildcats victory.
Parker coach Tom Klawitter agreed that the play of the Trilling sisters, who accounted for three 3-pointers in the first half, set the tone for Verona.
“The high-low was there and they used their big bodies to get down there,” Klawitter said. “Beside the two little guards who were hitting some threes in the first half, they were getting some good looks at the basket.”
Kateri Trilling, who finished with seven assists, drilled a 3 off a pass from Grace Schraufnagel and then assisted on Mueller’s layup to stake the Wildcats to a 9-6 first-quarter lead.
Senior guard Jessica Thompson scored to pull the Vikings (11-6, 8-5) within 17-15 with 2:31 left in the second quarter. But Verona closed out the half with eight points in the paint to take a 25-20 lead at the break.
“We were doing all the little things,” said Opsal, who scored 10 points in the first half. “We realized we need to slow the ball down and we’d get more open looks inside. If the guards were outside, the kick-out was there. Everything fell into place.”
The Wildcats opened the second half with an 8-0 run, holding the Vikings scoreless until Kathryn Dubanowich hit a jumper with 2:35 left in the third period to make it 33-22.
“We had a couple of times where we tried to create too much and we had opportunities to get the ball (inside) and kick the ball out and we got mixed up sometimes,” Klawitter said. “We’d try to score on the 6-foot girls instead of kicking it out. I thought we had opportunities there.”
Sophomore wing Alex Luehring scored six of her eight points in the fourth quarter, including a layup off a pass from Cheyenne Trilling to extend Verona’s lead to 40-24.
“We’re getting better at moving the ball around and sharing the ball,” Murphy said. “We know (teams) want to stop our inside game, so the posts are doing a good job of working it inside out and moving the ball and hitting them on the weak side.”
Janesville Parker 6 14 4 12 — 36
Verona 9 16 11 14 — 50
JANESVILLE PARKER — Smith 6, Dubanowich 9, Porter 3, Uhl 8, Thompson 4, Fleming 2, Foster 4. Totals 18 3-5 36.
VERONA — C.Trilling 8, K.Trilling 5, Luehring 8, Mueller 12, Opsal 17. Totals 24 5-7 50.
3-point goals — JP 3 (Porter 1, Uhl 2), V 3 (C.Trilling 2, K.Trilling 1). Total fouls — JP 9, V 7.