Baraboo girls basketball coach Michael Behl said the Thunderbirds struggled in two aspects in a non-conference game against Wisconsin Dells on Tuesday night: offensive rebounds, and defending the Chiefs’ Jenna Mace.

Mace’s 31-point outing and a decided advantage on the glass helped Wisconsin Dells earn a 71-59 victory in the game held at UW-Barabo/Sauk County.

“I can recall off the top of my head four offensive rebounds throughout the game — three of them led to 3s and one of them led to a putback so that’s 11 points off the top of my head,” Behl said. “And there’s probably more. So certainly the offensive glass was in a lot of ways the difference in this game.”

Mace scored 22 of her 31 points in the second half, hitting three 3-pointers while having no trouble capitalizing on Baraboo’s turnovers.

“We struggled to defend her in transition,” Behl said. “She got deep in the paint consistently in transition and we didn’t pick her up very well. She created it for herself at the rim and when she got open three looks, her teammates got her the ball and she knocked them down consistently.”

The Chiefs (9-1) began the contest with an 8-0 lead before junior Abby Moon hit one from downtown to put Baraboo (2-10) on the board. The T-Birds struggled to defend Wisconsin Dells’ passing within the paint as the Chiefs’ pushed their lead to 16-3, but Baraboo junior Lexi Johnson swung the momentum back in her team’s favor with seven straight points.

Johnson’s run started with a three-point play, and ended with a drive to pull the T-Birds within six. A steal-and-score from Haley Hannagan and another drive from Johnson made it a four-point game. Wisconsin Dells’ Bethany Smith and Mace each hit 3-pointers to extend the Chiefs’ lead, but Hannagan hit a 3 of her own and scored in transition to end the half with Baraboo trailing 25-19.

Moon started the second half with a 3-pointer, but Mace hit two from beyond the arc and Katelyn Meister scored on a Baraboo turnover. Mace gave the Chiefs a consistent double-digit lead, but shots from Johnson and Hannagan along with a 3 from Grace Stuckey kept the T-birds within reach.

Johnson, who tied with Hannagan to lead Baraboo with 18 points, hit three from the free throw line after getting fouled on a 3-pointer to make it 63-50 late, while 3s from Johnson and Moon sliced Baraboo’s deficit to nine, but the T-Birds ran out of time from there as Mace hit her free throws to seal the deal.

Despite the loss, Behl was impressed with Hannagan, Johnson and Lia Kieck who combined for 47 points.

“They were (consistent),” Behl said. “Haley knocked down some 3s when she was open, Lexi got to the rim and Lia went to the rim. Really that’s kind of how it should work, those three should be averaging somewhere around 45 point-range. We need the others to kind of step up and knock down the open looks and do what they do, and that’s coming. It’s just a process; we’re staying in games a little bit more now, and we’re battling a bit better defensively.

“Our last two months of practice are really going to be more about the fundamentals. The scheme work isn’t going to change from here on out, so now it’s a matter of sharpening our skills and getting back to the basics.”

Baraboo will travel to DeForest on Friday.

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Regional Sports Reporter