MARKESAN – Fall River and Markesan are two of the top teams in the Trailways West Conference.

And the girls basketball matchup didn’t disappoint when they met in Friday’s clash as the Pirates held off the Hornets just enough to win 49-43.

“They took advantage of some things we did wrong and we took advantage of some of the things they did wrong,” Fall River coach Jim Doolittle said. “We’re lucky to come out of here with a win.”

The win by the Pirates (6-1, 3-1 Trailways West) put them in a four-way tie for first in the West. Markesan, Rio and Randolph are also 3-1 in league play.

The Pirates are coming off a disappointing 39-31 loss to Randolph on Tuesday, where poor free-throw shooting cost them, which served as motivation Friday night.

“Yeah, we ... all were disappointed with our performance the last time out in our shooting,” Doolittle said. “We missed about 18 free throws. Tonight, we really wanted to focus on getting the ball into Sam (Liesemann) and Lexi (Rozinski), and I was surprised that our press did such a nice job up front.”

The full-court press generated 18 steals for Fall River which turned into multiple points. Maddie Gregorio led the team with 10 steals as she helped her team go on an 8-4 run to go into halftime with a 24-14 lead over the Hornets (3-3, 3-1).

“Maddie, Morgan (Tramburg) and Karlee (Van Gysel) up front there, especially Maddie because she’s got a long wingspan,” Doolittle said. “She did a nice job of anticipating. She’s been doing that in practice. We’re seeing now what she’s starting to be capable of. She’s starting to be more aggressive. She’s still a sophomore. She’s come a long way.”

Gregorio led Fall River with 15 points as she credited her teammates for how she performed on defense.

“They told me who to cover and who to guard,” she said. “They called it out and helped me out. They gave me great support.”

The pressure Fall River displayed on the Hornets held leading scorer Alex Dornfeld to just four points in the first half.

“We really focused on stopping their leading scorer, Alex, and I think we really had some good double-downs with Morgan, Sam and Lexi (Rozinski),” Gregorio said.

With the Pirates leading 28-19 with 13:15 left, Dornfeld hit her second 3 of the game that started a 10-2 run, during which she scored seven of those points, to cut the deficit to 30-29 with 10:17 left.

“We haven’t won conference in the last couple of years, and I think that’s the first time in 16 years we’ve gone two years without winning it,” Markesan coach Skip Laper said. “They’re kind of taking a little pride in that. They want to end that. They don’t want to be the team that doesn’t have it. I think our girls are taking a lot of pride and trying to get that number up there.

“I like the competition because they competed. We got down 10 early and they competed. I was very impressed.”

But the Pirates never lost the lead as they built the lead to 36-31 with 9:02 remaining, and the closest Markesan would get was when Gracie Mast made two free throws with 3:07 left to make it 43-41.

“We just made some poor decisions at times and that’s credit to their pressure as well,” Laper said. “We also made some poor decisions when we needed it. Maybe that’s a sign of some younger kids handling the ball. We had our chances; we just made some poor decisions.”

Mast finished with 11 points and Lauren Winchell had nine for Markesan while Fall River’s Tramburg put up 12 points, VanGysel had 7 to go with her six steals, five rebounds and five assists on the night. Liesemann finished with nine points and nine rebounds.

After Markesan pulled to within 43-41, Fall River had the Hornets in foul trouble and went to the free-throw line five times and made 8 of 10 to close out the game. Fall River was 12 of 25 from the line for the game.

“Even though our free throw shooting hasn’t been all that spectacular, we still want to be aggressive going to basket and possibly getting a 3-pointer,” said Doolittle.

FALL RIVER 49, MARKESAN 43

Fall River 24 25 - 49

Markesan 14 29 - 43

Fall River (49) – Morgan Tramburg 12, Karlee VanGysel 7, Maddie Gregorio 15, Corrin Waterworth 2, Lexi Rozinski 4, Sam Liesemann 9. TOTALS (FGS FTM-FTA PTS): 18 12-25 49.

Markesan (43) – Alex Dornfeld 16, Kelyn Clark 4, Gracie Mast 11, Hanna Gibbons 3, Lauren Winchell 9. TOTALS (FGS FTM-FTA PTS): 15 9-14 43.

3-pointers: FR 1 (Karlee Van Gysel), M 4 (Alex Dornfeld 3, Hanna Gibbons 1). Total fouls: FR 16, M 24. Fouled out: FR – none. M – Jessie Kelly.

Follow Mark on Twitter @mmcmull2.

Mark McMullen is currently a sports reporter for the Daily Citizen. He can be reached by email at mmcmullen@wiscnews.com or by phone at 920-356-6754. Can also follow him on Twitter at @mmcmull2.