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WIAA DIV. 5 GIRLS BASKETBALL - Second trip to Holcombe is much better, Pirates advance to semifinal

Second trip to Holcombe is much better, Pirates advance to semifinal
Kayleigh James
Second trip to Holcombe is much better, Pirates advance to semifinal
Kayleigh James


The Gilman girls basketball team’s first trip to Lake Holcombe this season did not end well.

Tuesday’s WIAA Division 5 regional opener, however, went much better.

The ninth-seeded Pirates extended their season by at least three more days with a convincing 62-38 win over the host and eighth-seeded Chieftains. They did it with a strong all-around effort that included balanced scoring with four players in double figures and with a much better defensive effort than the first meeting on Dec. 11.

Defensively, the Pirates went to a box-and-one to try to contain Lake Holcombe’s high-scoring senior guard Emma Lechleitner. Lechleitner got her 20 before fouling out, but that was a big improvement from Gilman’s perspective compared to the first meeting when she pumped in 39 of team’s points in the Chieftains’ 55-52 win.

“The girls played awesome, they really did,” Gilman head coach Tammy Weir said.

Kayleigh James was the designated defender on Lechleitner, who was held to eight points in a first half that ended with Gilman leading 28-17. The Pirates steadily expanded on that lead in the second half as the Chieftains were unable to find enough additional reliable scoring outside of Lechleitner.

“The girls really hustled defensively,” Weir said. “They talked really well. We had four girls score in double digits and we rebounded really well. Kayleigh didn’t score much, but she put so much energy into trying to stop Emma from scoring. It was all about the defense for her.”

Danielle Mann and Allison Olynick had big first halves with nine points apiece and Aubrey Steinbach added six. Mann and Steinbach, however, also picked up three fouls in the half. That, combined with an injury to Raygen Soper, forced the Pirates to go deep into the bench with Chloe Irwin making her varsity debut in the first half to fill the gap.

“She did a really good job defensively in the box and one,” Weir said.

The offense took off in the second half, scoring 34 points. Mann had nine of those points to finish with a team-high 18. Claire Drier also scored nine in the half to finish with 13 points. Steinbach added six more to finish with a season-high 12. Olynick added a basket for 11 points.

James added four points, while Jaylyn Orth scored two and Aubrey Mann hit two late free throws for her first varsity points.

Lake Holcombe finished the year 11-14 while Gilman improved to 10-15.

“Honestly the girls played lights out,” Weir said. “They were ready for this one. I could tell before the game they were very relaxed. You could tell they felt like we’ve got this.”

Next up for the Pirates is a long trip to Port Wing in Lake Superior country to face the top-seeded South Shore Cardinals in a 6:30 p.m. tip time in Friday’s regional semifinal.

The Cardinals are 23-2 and will certainly present a challenge, led by 5-10 senior Emily Montgomery, who averages nearly 29 points per game as an inside and outside threat. They average 71 points per game as a team, so the Pirates hope to find a scheme that can slow them down and hope the offensive balance from Tuesday can continue.

The winner will advance to Saturday’s 7 p.m. regional final against either fifthseeded Hurley (14-11) or fourth-seeded Butternut (17-8) with the higher seed hosting. The regional champion will play in a Feb. 29 sectional semifinal currently set to be played in Ashland.

Cadott 56, Gilman 52

The most competitive of the six Cloverbelt Conference crossovers Thursday took place in Cadott where the host Hornets got a couple of key hoops and a couple of key steals late to hold off Gilman 56-52 in the league’s sixth-place game.

It was an uphill climb most of the night for the Pirates, who did get over the hump for a brief period to start the second half, but then fell back behind and never quite caught the Hornets the rest of the way. Cadott finished the regular season at 1113.

Cadott jumped ahead 10-1, but Gilman slowly but surely cut into that lead for the rest of the half. The Pirates caught the Hornets at 14-14 on a Mann score, assisted by Drier. A Mann bucket with 2:10 left and Orth’s alert play, picking up the loose ball after Olynick’s shot was blocked and putting it in with two seconds left, forged an 18-18 tie.

Mann banked in a 3 to start the second half and Drier hit two free throws following a steal to give Gilman a 23-18 lead 50 seconds into the second half. The lead held until Hornet Taylor Hager made a 3-point shot to tie it at 27-27 with 13 min- to play. Emma Kowalczyk, a 5-10 forward and one of Cadott’s two seniors, scored the tie-breaking basket and got another one off Danielle Sikora’s offensive rebound to give the Hornets a 31-27 lead and the home team never trailed again.

As the Pirates got a better handle on Cadott’s zone defense, their scoring picked up in the second half. Steinbach and Olynick sank 3-pointers to get Gilman within 39-37, but, in a crucial sequence, Cadott’s Tarynn Donahue answered by banking in her own 3-ball from the right win and Hager hit another from the left corner to push Cadott’s lead to eight.

Donahue hit another triple to make it 49-42 with 5:05 left, but Gilman made another run. Kayleigh James got open on back-to-back possessions on the left side and scored on both to make it 49-47 with 2:43 to go, but Hager came right back with a floater in the lane. Olynick answered for Gilman and the Pirates got a stop with a chance to tie or take the lead, but Kowalcyzk intercepted an errant pass and scored. Sikora’s steal led to a three-point play by Kowalczyk that made it 56-49 with 52.2 seconds and pretty much slammed the door on the Pirates, who did get a 3-pointer from Mann before she fouled out with eight seconds to go.

Mann scored 20 points to lead all scorers. Olynick scored 11, while James and Drier added six points apiece. Orth chipped in with four points, Steinbach had three and Addy Vick added a secondhalf hoop.

Kowalczyk led three Hornets in double figures with 17 points. Hager finished with 14 and Sikora added 10.

The Eastern Cloverbelt went 2-4 in crossovers on Thursday. Spencer beat Stanley-Boyd 44-30 in the seventh-place game and Colby downed Thorp 63-48 in the eighth-place game. In Saturday’s finales, McDonell Central won the first-place game 52-32 over Neillsville and Fall Creek beat Owen-Withee 46-30 in the secondplace game.