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Greyhounds grind down Prairie Farm for sectional berth

Greyhounds grind down Prairie Farm for sectional berth Greyhounds grind down Prairie Farm for sectional berth

For the first time since its historic state championship season of 2016-17, the Loyal girls basketball team has played its way into a WIAA Division 5 sectional tournament. As it was in that magical season when it took down Milwaukee Academy of Science in the state title game, Loyal is just two wins away from playing at the Resch Center in Green Bay in the March 12-14 state tournament.

Loyal defeated Prairie Farm 70-55 on Feb. 29 to claim its first regional title in three years. Seeded third in their 16-team sectional field, the Greyhounds topped the second-seeded Panthers on their home floor before a crowd that was boisterous until Loyal took control of the game early in the second half.

Senior point guard Remi Geiger was the key cog for Loyal, scoring 34 points on 12-17 shooting from the floor and an 8-8 night at the free-throw line. Time and time again, when Loyal needed to stop a Prairie Farm run, or get another hoop to pull away, Geiger put the ball on the floor and found a way to score.

Loyal started to take the Panther crowd out of the game early as it built a 21-12 lead on Geiger’s 3-pointer at the 10:03 mark of the first half. Waiting for something from a Panther team with five freshmen and only two seniors on the varsity roster, the home crowd blew its top when Marnie Kahl scored with 6:32 left in the half to erase all of the Greyhounds’ lead.

Who else but Geiger put a lid on the home court enthusiasm with another 3-pointer to give Loyal a lead it would never relinquish again. Bailey Bravener followed with another 3-pointer for Loyal, and Geiger’s runner put the Greyhounds back on top 33-25 at the 3:55 mark. The Panthers cut it to 38-33 at the half as Loyal ran off the last 45 seconds and missed a shot near the end.

Loyal pushed its lead back to nine points early in the second half on a Katlyn Lindner 3-pointer and a Savannah Schley free throw.

Prairie Farm got as close as 44-37 about three minutes into the half, but a 12-0 Loyal run keyed by back-to-back 3-pointers from Lindner and Bravener gave the Greyhounds a commanding lead.

Geiger continued to score in the second half, taking advantages of isolations on her defender to drive one-on-one for baskets. Savannah Schley did the same, taking her defender to the baseline repeatedly. Backto- back scores from Geiger put Loyal ahead 60-39 with 6:59 left to play. Prairie Farm was forced to foul in the final minutes, and Geiger was 6-6 at the line to make sure that strategy would not work.

Loyal shot 53 percent in the game overall, and hit half of its 14 shots from 3-point range. Loyal was also strong at the line, converting 11 of 13 free throws into points. Prairie Farm shot 34 percent in the game and went particularly cold (6-23) in the second half. The Panthers were 1-8 on 3 pointers. They were good at the line, hitting 20 of 24 attempts. In addition to Geiger’s 34-point game, Schley scored nine points and Lindner and Bravener each had eight. Prairie Farm junior Makaylin Chistenson led the Panthers with 16 points and Kahl scored 12.

Loyal, now 20-5 on the season, will head to Eau Claire Memorial on March 5 to take on top-seeded Clear Lake (24-0) in a sectional semi-final. The winner of that game will play at 1 p.m. on May 7 at Superior, against either Hurley or Northwood, for the right to play in the state tourney.

Loyal 74 Eau Claire Immanuel 39

To get to the regional final game at Prairie Farm, Loyal first had two early round games to survive. It opened the tournament with a 74-28 home win over New Auburn on Feb. 25 with Geiger scoring 24 points, Natasha Tellock adding 13 and Lindner scoring 12.

At home against Immanuel on Feb. 28, Loyal made no mistake of its intentions to play for a regional title. It went on a 15-0 scoring run to break an early 4-4 tie, and did not let the Lancers get any closer than 14 points the rest of the way. Loyal led 46-19 at halftime and built the lead to as many as 35 points in the second half.

Loyal shot 50 percent in the game while limiting Immanuel to a 39 percent night. The Greyhounds dropped in eight 3-pointers on 18 attempts, and were 8-15 at the line.

Immanuel hit five 3-pointers on 12 attempts and was 4-11 on free throws.

Geiger led Loyal with 20 points and hit all three of the 3-pointers she attempted. Schley added 16 points and Bravener scored nine.