AP NEWS

Dismal first half dooms Fort girls

December 30, 2016 GMT

The Fort Atkinson High School girls’ basketball team didn’t start out its Holiday Hoops Classic very joyful or merry.

Instead, the Blackhawks lost its third straight game with a 51-29 result to Slinger in a gritty, physical game on Thursday at PremierBank Gymnasium.

The first half is one the Blackhawks will need to forget with a quick turnaround another game to be played today.

Fort (3-7 overall), who hasn’t played in 10 days, were outscored 24-7 in the first half, and were held scoreless for over 10 minutes in the middle of it.

The Owls (5-3) would finish the half with an 18-2 run, which was only broken up by Hannah Beckman’s two free throws with 55.9 seconds remaining.

“We got beat up pretty bad. They just outplayed us,” said FAHS head coach Matt Stollberg. “There were a lot of fundamental things that coincidentally we’re working really hard on. Some of the stuff that we’ve been stressing as far as ball security and limiting our turnovers, limiting offensive rebounds, we’ve been preaching that a lot the last two weeks with that being key to our success. Obviously that’s kind of what did us in tonight.”

Whether it was because of the tough Slinger press, or carelessness with the ball, it was turnovers that really hurt Fort.

Despite Sarah Pfeifer’s five points, and Fort being down just 6-5 in the first eight minutes, Fort had seven turnovers in the first six minutes of the game. They would finish the half with 16 total turnovers.

“We haven’t had a team pressure us quite that hard,” Stollberg said. “It’s stuff that we’ve spent a lot of our practice time working on just in anticipation of it. It’s disappointing that we weren’t able to handle it better. But it definitely gives us a clear blueprint of what we have to keep working toward. I would have to go back and look, but even in the first half I think that a lot of our turnovers happened high up here in the half court. Those led to the run out layups.”

While Fort couldn’t keep hold of the ball, and had a couple 3-pointers unluckily rim out, the Owls got hot from behind the arc.

With just under nine minutes to play, Emily Rothenhoefer hit a 3-pointer and Abbey Belling came off the bench to hit two more, for a quick 9-0 run that got Slinger out to a 15-5 lead.

The Owls continued to press as Sydney Reinhardt kept driving the lane and getting to the line, and Slinger eventually finished the half with a 24-7 lead.

It just seemed to be that kind of night for the Blackhawks, and Courtney Dunkleberger’s in-and-out layup right out of halftime proved to be the perfect metaphor.

Despite scoring 22 points in the second half, Fort still was out muscled on the boards, and struggled against the press.

The Blackhawks eventually would finish 8-of-10 chances from the line, and get a 3-pointer from Evie Coleman but with 5:56 left in the game, Slinger was still up 47-26.

“I thought we saw some good things in the second half, and the kids kind of had each others back,” Stollberg said.

Fort’s only points in the final 5:56 was a Stephanie Patrick 3-pointer, and Slinger would finish the game with a 51-29 win.

Coleman finished with a team-high eight points for Fort, while Rothenhaefer had a game-high 13 for Slinger, with Reinhard adding 12.

It’s Fort’s third straight loss, and their seventh loss in eight games.

There won’t be any time to sulk either, as Fort has a game today at 7:30 p.m. against Waukesha North, who beat Elkhorn 37-33 in their first game of the Classic.