In a low scoring, back-and-forth conference battle, things can change at a moment’s notice.

That abrupt change came at the start of the second half during Monday’s girls basketball game between Baraboo and Portage. After taking just a two-point lead into halftime, the Warriors burst out of the gates in the second half with a 14-0 run on their way to a 61-43 Badger North Conference victory.

“Our defense, our intensity that we’ve been working on, it was there,” Portage coach Jessica Howe said. “And we really capitalized on some turnovers and some quick buckets.”

The first several minutes of the game saw sloppy play from both sides. Portage’s Mackenzie Roth put in a quick bucket off the tipoff, before a drive from Baraboo’s Lexi Johnson and a 3-pointer from Abby Moon gave Baraboo a 5-2 lead. Turnovers and missed shots on both ends of the floor made for a low scoring stretch before a 3-pointer from McKena Yelk and a jumper off the glass from Erin Kibby gave Portage the lead.

A couple of drives from Lia Kieck put Baraboo back on top, while Lexi Johnson hit one from beyond the arc to make it 13-7. Portage’s Tess Wilson was a physical force under the rim throughout the night, grabbing a couple offensive rebounds and turning those into buckets. Moon hit another 3-pointer to keep Baraboo’s offense going, but a layup from Roth and a jumper from Morgan Bisch put Portage up 20-17.

A defensive stop from Moon led to two Kieck free throws, making it 20-19, before Baraboo’s Lindsay Johnson knotted the score with a free throw. Portage’s Brianna Brandner was fouled and hit both her attempts from the line to give the Warriors a 22-20 lead in the final seconds of the half.

“We were OK; we got some good shots and generally speaking we defended well,” Baraboo coach Michael Behl said of the first half. “We covered up their shooters fairly well in the first half.”

Portage began its 14-0 run to start the second half with back-to-back 3-pointers from Yelk and Kibby. The Warriors continued to hit from beyond the arc, with Bisch hitting back-to-back 3s of her own moments later to give Portage a 36-20 advantage.

“It was always there — our shots just weren’t hitting for us in the first half,” Howe said. “But we don’t quit. We know that we can shoot. We have people we believe in that can put the ball in the hoop and we have rebounders too that showed up.”

Behl admitted the Warriors were hot from 3-point range.

“To their credit, they knocked them down, they were open,” he said. “We didn’t match it on our end, at all.”

On the other end, the Thunderbirds rushed their shot opportunities, and a couple turnovers didn’t help their case. Freshman Dasia Banks broke the scoring drought with a pair of free throws, and a 3-pointer from Hannagan made it 50-40. Baraboo continued to trail by about 10 points for the next few minutes, but simply couldn’t match the physical presence brought by the Warriors. A three-point play from Yelk along with late buckets from Anika Shortreed and Molly Callenn sealed the deal.

Portage (8-13, 5-8 Badger North) will travel to Sauk Prairie on Friday to wrap up the regular season, before hosting the Eagles four days later for a WIAA regional quarterfinal.

Baraboo (3-18, 2-11) will host DeForest on Thursday for its final game of the regular season. It will be a good test for the T-Birds, as they will take on the Norskies again on Feb. 20 for the opening round of WIAA playoffs.

PORTAGE 61, BARABOO 43

Portage 22 39 — 61

Baraboo 20 23 — 43

PORTAGE — Anderson 1 0-0 2, Roth 5 2-2 13, Wilson 2 1-3 5, Bisch 4 0-0 11, Kibby 1 1-2 3, Belleau 0, Shortreed 2 0-0 4, Yelk 7 1-1 18, Brandner 0 3-4 3, Callen 1 0-0 2. Totals 23 8-15 61.

BARABOO — Kieck 2 2-2 6, Hannagan 3 2-3 10, Stuckey 0 1-2 1, A. Johnson 3 3-5 10, Moon 2 1-2 7, Banks 3 2-3 8, Johnson 0 1-2 1. Totals 13 12-19 43.

3-point goals — POR 7 (Roth 1, Bisch 3, Yelk 3), BAR 4 (Hannagan 2, Moon 2). Total fouls — POR 20, BAR 18. Fouled out — Kieck.

Follow Chris on Twitter @chris_CNsports

Regional Sports Reporter