L-Cats start fast in Capitol North win over Lodi
LAKE MILLS — Starting fast has been a key talking point for the Lake Mills L-Cats. For the first time in a meaningful game all season they did that, jumping out to an 11-2 lead against Lodi.
The Blue Devils, who have a chance to challenge Lakeside Lutheran for the title in the Capitol North chase, fought back to a one-point deficit at halftime, but a strong defensive effort by freshman McClain Mahone helped the L-Cats earn a 40-34 victory on Tuesday night.
“I was really happy with the way we started tonight,” Lake Mills head coach Brandon Siska said. “We’ve been coming out not ready to play. We had the best practice of the year yesterday and came out very focused. I think that led the charge.”
A missed layup late by Jade Pitta gave the Blue Devils an opening as they were able to pull the deficit to 36-34 with 37 seconds left. Pitta was fouled and made a pair of free throws before Lodi guard Alanna Gilles missed a 3-pointer effectively ending Lodi’s chances.
“I felt bad because I felt like I let my team down because then all of them would have to play so much harder on defense,” said Pitta, who scored 11 points. But because the L-Cats have been working on enhancing their competitive edge as is evidenced in their “play angry” motto after timeouts, they were able to hold.
“We know that we play teams that might come out harder than us, we need to fight back. … If we play angry and come out hard, we have a fighting chance.”
Defensively, Pitta said she saw that mentality play itself out with Mahone, who was the primary defender of Gilles. In the first half, Mahone suffered foul trouble which led to the L-Cats packing the paint in an attempt to slow the senior guard. The defense would leave two and sometimes three Lodi players all alone on the perimeter knowing that those players wouldn’t shoot.
“We knew there were a couple of them from watching film that — if they weren’t guarded — they wouldn’t even shoot the ball,” Siska said. “So we were able to drop off and really give a lot of help on Alanna, who is a heck of a ball player. It helped a lot because we could have three guys on her with two sitting in the paint and one on her to stop her from shooting with heavy ball pressure.”
Lauryn Milne broke through for Lodi’s first 3-pointer with 2 minutes, 33 seconds remaining in the game to cut the Lake Mills lead to 34-30. It was a late push, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the lead the L-Cats built at the beginning of the second half when they stretched their 18-17 halftime lead to 28-17.
Julianna Wagner scored four of her seven points during that early second-half run. Fellow sophomore guard Taylor Roughen took advantage of Wagner attracting the best Lodi defender to score a team-high 12 points.
Gilles finished with 11 points to lead Lodi — eight of which came in the first half.
“She’s really good at finding the gaps and reading the defense,” Pitta said. “She knows when to kick it out and when to keep going hard and get her shot. She’s really tough.”
In the second half, Mahone was a key force to slowing Gilles and forcing the Lodi coaching staff to rotate in players who usually saw fewer minutes. At one point, the Blue Devils went deeper into their bench to bring out sophomore Taylor Ripp, whose role was to take a jump shot to soften the defense. The sophomore didn’t get a shot off for three minutes as Mahone was able to hold her own against Gilles.
“McClain locked her down and I think she did a great job of working hard and staying focused in the second half,” Pitta said.
The victory was the latest in a trend of losing-streak snapping wins. It was the first time in four tries Lake Mills beat Lodi. Earlier in the season, Lake Mills beat Columbus and Whitewater for the first time in six tries.
Lake Mills continues its season on Friday against Watertown Luther Prep at 7:30 p.m.
LAKE MILLS 40, LODI 34
Lake Mills 18 22 — 40
Lodi 17 17 — 34
Lake Mills (fg-ft-tp) — Roughen 3-6-12, Wagner 1-5-7, Pitta 4-2-11, Guerrero 3-2-8, Wollin 1-0-2. Totals 12-15-40.
Lodi (fg-ft-tp) — Milne 4-3-12, Kolinski 2-2-6, Ripp 0-1-1, Walzer 2-0-4, Gilles 5-1-11. Totals 13-7-34.
Three-point goals — LM, Pitta; L, Milne.