OSSEO — Wisconsin Dells is one win away from the state tournament, and it can thank a strong performance from junior Katelyn Meister and a couple of missed free throws for keeping its season alive.
Meister scored 23 points as the Chiefs edged Gale-Ettrick-Trempealeau 47-46 in a WIAA Division 3 sectional semifinal Thursday night at Osseo-Fairchild High School.
Mesiter, who made four 3-pointers in the game, scored the go-ahead bucket with a layup on an inbounds play to make it 47-45 lead with 22 seconds remaining. The Chiefs then had to survive the final seconds, when Gale-Ettrick-Trempealeau junior Molly Schmitz was fouled shooting a 3-pointer with 1.1 seconds left.
Schmitz made the first free throw to make it a one-point game, but missed the next two, allowing Wisconsin Dells (24-1) to escape with the win.
Meister had the hot hand all night. She made a pair of 3-pointers as part of an 11-0 run that gave the Chiefs an early 11-4 lead. The 5-foot-10 guard’s performance was even more impressive considering she entered the game in a shooting slump.
“It felt really good. My coaches and my teachers always tell me I haven’t hit a 3-pointer since the Civil War,” Meister said. “They weren’t wrong. But the last couple days, I was just in the gym hours at a time, just trying to get my shot down.”
The Dells lead grew to as many as 12 points on three separate occasions, with the latest being when junior Jenna Mace, who had 11 points, scored on a layup to make it 38-26 with 8:50 to play.
Gale-Ettrick-Trempealeau (20-5) had its comeback almost entirely fueled by Lexi Wagner. The junior was held to just eight points in the first half, but made five 3-pointers and scored 21 points in the second half on her way to a game-high 29 points. Wagner’s 3-pointer with 1:48 left cut the Dells lead to two at 44-42. Wagner then gave G-E-T a 45-44 lead with a 3-pointer with 48 seconds left. It was the first lead for the Red Hawks since they were up 4-3 in the opening minutes.
Wisconsin Dells tied the game at 45 when junior Bethany Smith made the first of two free throws with 28 seconds to go. After Smith missed the second free throw, a battle for the rebound resulted in a jump ball, and Wisconsin Dells kept possession under its own basket.
After a timeout, Mace found Meister cutting through the lane on the inbounds pass and Meister made the layup to put her team in front 47-45. The play required Meister to improvise after G-E-T originally defended it well.
“She’s smart enough, where she was overplayed one way, so she just went the other way and Jenna gave her the ball,” Dells coach Bob Buss said.
“It’s all about reading your defender and going off of that,” Meister said. “I knew they were going to cheat, because any good team scouts your plays.”
Wisconsin Dells advances to play Hayward (22-3) in the sectional final on Saturday at 1 p.m. in Chippewa Falls. With one more victory, the Chiefs will be headed to the state tournament for the first time in school history.
“I’m so excited for the girls. I’m so excited for the community,” Buss said. “Just to be able to go to a sectional final is pretty exciting.”
WISCONSIN DELLS 47, GALE-ETTRICK-TREMPEALEAU 46
Gale-Ettrick-Trempealeau 17 29 — 46
Wisconsin Dells 26 21 — 47
GALE-ETTRICK-TREMPEALEAU — Schmidt 3 0-0 7, Doerr 2, Schmitz 0 1-3 1, Hammond 1 0-0 1, Wagner 9 6-7 29, Zielke 1 3-9 5. Totals 15 11-19 46.
WISCONSIN DELLS — Bates 1 0-0 1, Pfeifer 2 2-4 6, Mace 4 3-6 11, Smith 2 2-4 6, Meister 9 1-2 23. Totals 18 6-16 47.
3-point goals — 6 (Schmidt 1, Wagner 5), WD 5 (Bates 1, Meister 4). Total fouls — WD 15, 18.