Lakeside lowers boom on Lake Mills
LAKE MILLS —?After posting consecutive defeats during its holiday tournament, the Lakeside Lutheran girls basketball team spent the first week of the new year brushing up on the finer details of its play.
Against crosstown rival Lake Mills Thursday, the renewed focus paid off.
Despite a slow start offensively, the Lady Warriors stayed on task, rebounded well and executed their defensive game plan to perfection against their crosstown rivals.
A spark off the bench from junior guard Ashley Fritz provided all the juice Lakeside Lutheran needed as it distanced itself at the end of the first half and didn’t look back, downing Lake Mills by a final score of 45-30.
“It was kind of a grind it out first half,” LLHS head coach Tim Matthies said about the victory. “We just kind of stayed the course. The defensive effort was pretty solid. Part of the game plan was trying to control the looks they got inside to Megan while at the same time, being respectful of (Lake Mills’) ability to both shoot and drive and we did a good job of that. And I thought we came out with a really nice spurt to start the second half and that helped us turn the corner.”
A Fritz steal and layup on the first possession of the second half set the tone for the final 18 minutes, putting the home side up by double digits for good, 21-12. Nine of Fritz’ game-high 11 points came in the second stanza, but her impact was just as prevalent in the first, injecting plenty of urgency to the Warriors (8-4, 2-0 Capitol North Conference) with her boundless energy.
“I was just trying to not think that much,” Fritz said, assessing her play. “I was just trying to focus on the game and focus on what the coaches told us before the game and to play hard.”
“There’s so much talent there,” Matthies added about the junior. “It was nice to see her really come out strong, play hard, play with her guts. She really was a catalyst tonight.”
When Fritz entered the game, the Warriors and L-Cats (2-10, 0-2 Capitol North) were mired in a relative stalemate. Lake Mills had surged ahead 6-4 early, but a put back and ensuing steal and layup by senior Laura Hafenstein gave Lakeside Lutheran a slim lead, 9-6.
A contested layup by Lake Mills senior Megan Will that cut the deficit to one with 9:10 to play however, became the L-Cats last bright moment of the first half. Lakeside Lutheran’s defense clamped down, walling off all entry passes as it held the visitors to just one point over the next nine minutes of play.
Lake Mills, to its credit, exhibited fine defensive play of its own, especially Will who contested a slew of shots without getting herself into foul trouble. The offensive drought however, was too much to make up for as a Hannah Johnson three in the closing second saw Lake Mills still down nine, 21-12, as the Warriors closed the first half on a 12-3 run.
“We kept them to 45 points which I’m pretty proud of as far as our defense is concerned,” Lake Mills head coach Dena Smith remarked. “It’s just hard when you turn the ball over almost every other possession. We are giving other teams way too many opportunities to score. You can’t win games like that so we need to do a lot better job at protecting the ball.”
When the game was close early, Lake Mills had done just that; overcoming its shooting struggles by taking care of the ball, being patient and locking down in the half court defensively. As they pressed to get back into the game however, the L-Cats possessions diminished as mounting turnovers allowed the Warriors to increase their lead.
“I thought a key, at the end of the first half, was that we started to press off misses as well as makes,” Matthies said about creating more turnovers. “We started off just letting them bring the ball up at that pace and making that change at the end of the first half was a solid start for us.”
Fritz led the Warriors charge to start the second half, scoring five of the teams first nine points as a free throw gave Lakeside Lutheran a 16-point, 32-16, advantage just three minutes into play.
A Will triple trimmed the lead back to 13, but Lakeside Lutheran charged again as a Kalies Birkholz three put it comfortably ahead by 20, 42-22, with 6:30 remaining.
Another Birkholz three minutes later gave the Warriors their biggest lead of the night at 22 points and though they were outscored 6-0 over the final four-plus minutes it was little more than semantics as they cruised to the conference win.
“This conference is going to be a battle,” Matthies said about taking care of business in the Capitol North early. “Any given night, any team can beat you. Hopefully we can keep the energy going and keep bringing it.”
To go along with Fritz, Hafenstein played well in the victory, scoring 11 points and contributing several clutch offensive rebounds and steals to help the Warriors distance themselves. Junior Kelsey Birschbach also notched nine points while Birkholz, a junior, tallied six.
Senior Kaity Birkholz had four points in the game including a three in the first half to put the Warriors up seven, 16-9.
Will and junior Brittney Rockney each scored nine to pace the L-Cats, but Will’s touches were too few and far between and Lake Mills was unable to make up for it elsewhere as no one else on the roster contributed more than three points in the defeat.
Lakeside Lutheran will try to remain perfect in the Capitol North Tuesday when it goes on the road to take on Columbus.
Lake Mills, on the other hand, will look to pick up its first conference win Tuesday, at home versus Luther Prep.
Both games are slated to tip at 7:30 p.m.