FALL RIVER — Finally, Pardeeville’s prep girls basketball team shifted out of first gear and made a push.
When the Bulldogs did, though, Fall River changed lanes and blocked the way.
The Bulldogs managed just four points over the first 11-plus minutes of the second half Friday and had only 13 points in the game at that point, then produced a little run and suddenly things got interesting in the teams’ Trailways West Conference game.
But the Pirates — the ninth-ranked team in the Associated Press Division 5 poll — clamped down after that, scoring 11 of the game’s final 14 points to hang on and claim a 38-24 victory, keeping them in the pole position — along with co-leader Randolph — as they try to win a sixth straight conference title.
It was a sloppy game both ways, however — the byproduct of an unscheduled day off Thursday because of the bad weather that closed schools early.
“They didn’t get a chance to practice yesterday and we didn’t practice yesterday because school got called off, and you could tell — both teams were pretty sluggish,” Fall River head coach Jim Doolittle said. “It was kind of a slow-paced game, and our two teams normally get up and down the floor pretty good.
“So it was a slugfest on the defensive end, but I thought our kids stayed resilient and we fought through some of the adversity.”
The Pirates (12-1, 6-1 Trailways) extended upon a modest 14-9 halftime lead to go in front 27-13 with 6 minutes, 44 seconds remaining and then closed on an 11-3 run after the Bulldogs’ 8-2 run had gotten them within 27-21 with 5:54 to go.
The Bulldogs (6-6, 3-4) did a decent job fighting through adversity to stay within striking distance almost the whole way. They just couldn’t quite climb the mountain top.
“In the first half, I don’t think we cut real hard — we weren’t making good, sharp cuts. And we didn’t move the ball side to side. That made our offense a little stagnant,” Bulldogs head coach Mike Brouette said. “And in the second half, I just think our shots didn’t fall — we got shots, we just didn’t make them. And sometimes that happens.
“They made some shots and we didn’t.”
A big reason why the scales tilted in Fall River’s favor was the Pirates were able to get the ball inside while conversely forcing the Bulldogs to take mostly perimeter attempts.
Size — namely the Pirates’ 5-foot-10 sophomore, Sam Leisemann, and 5-7 sophomore Lexi Rozinski — made the difference.
“We had an advantage in the middle, so we tried to exploit that,” Doolittle said of using those two to overpower a Bulldogs’ starting lineup that consisted of four girls listed at 5-6 or shorter. “We didn’t get it to (Rozinski) like we wanted to, but I thought the girls did a nice job of trying to be patient and to get Sam open and get her some looks.”
Leisemann finished with 10 points, 13 rebounds, four assists and two blocks.
But the bigger star, at least as far as making memories goes, was senior Jordyne Fletcher, who on her 18th birthday scored six points off the bench — including four straight to finish off the Pirates’ 13-2 run to start the second half that gave them the 27-13 lead.
“That was huge and it was a great birthday present for her,” Doolittle said.
The Bulldogs were left looking for the silver lining in the loss, their second straight in league play to fall behind in the title race.
“Some adversity never hurts,” Brouette said. “We’re a young a team. We only have two seniors, so there’s a lot of learning going on. And so they’ve got to learn these lessons because come playoff time it’s a completely different environment. And if we look ahead that far, certainly the regionals and into the sectionals, there’s a lot of winnable games.
“So we want to just keep working so that when we get there, maybe we can make a statement that, ‘Yeah, maybe we had the rough time but we got better from it.’
“And with a young team, not only are we building for this year, but the future as well.”
FALL RIVER 38, PARDEEVILLE 24
Pardeeville 9 15 — 24
Fall River 14 24 — 38
PARDEEVILLE (24) — Courtney Peterson 4, Josie DeLapp 13, Rylie Mussehl 4, Olivia Nedza 3. TOTALS (FGM FTM-FTA PTS): 8 7-14 24.
FALL RIVER (38) — Morgan Tramburg 6, Karlee Van Gysel 5, Kylie Colotti 3, Maddie Gregorio 6, Lexi Rozinski 2, Jordyne Fletcher 6, Sam Leisemann 10. TOTALS (FGM FTM-FTA PTS): 17 3-10 38.
3-pointers: Pardeeville 1 (Olivia Nedza 1), Fall River 1 (Kylie Colotti 1). Total fouls: Pardeeville 10, Fall River 14. Fouled out: Van Gysel.