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ASHWAUBENON — Momentum can easily disappear, a fact the Wisconsin Dells girls basketball team became intimately familiar with on Thursday in its first-ever trip to the WIAA state tournament.

The Chiefs trailed by as many as 11 points in the second half and got within five three times but were never able to get over the hump, suffering a 58-47 loss to top-seeded Marshall in a Division 4 semifinal at the Resch Center. It was a short-lived state debut for the Chiefs, who were just unable to keep the Cardinals from answering.

“Every time we made a run, Marshall hit some big shots,” Wisconsin Dells coach Bob Buss said.

Trailing by seven at halftime, the Chiefs (25-2) cut the deficit to five at 24-19 with a layup by senior Jenna Mace with 15 minutes, 25 seconds left to play. Marshall (26-1) responded, however, building a 30-21 lead with 14:08 left on a three-point play by freshman Mia Morel.

Back-to-back layups by Mace and junior Jamie Pfeifer brought the Chiefs back to within 30-25 with 11:53 to go, but the Cardinals answered. Marshall extended its lead to 11 at 38-27 following the second of three 3-pointers by Morel, who scored 16 points, with 10:31 remaining.

Wisconsin Dells continued to battle, getting the lead down to six at 40-34 with 7:14 left after a jumper by junior Katelyn Meister. Again Marshall responded, pushing the margin back to 46-37 with another Morel 3-pointer with just over 6 minutes remaining.

Facing a nine-point hole, Wisconsin Dells trimmed the lead back down to five twice in the final six minutes. Meister, who scored a game-high 26 points, cut the lead to 46-41 with a pair of free throws and hit another two foul shots with 3:32 left to cut the lead to 48-43.

Wisconsin Dells was never able to make it a one-possession game, however. The Chiefs’ next two possessions went empty as the Cardinals pushed the lead back to double digits at 54-43 on a pair of free throws by freshman Anna Lutz, who scored a team-high 17 points, and salted things away with a pair of late buckets.

“Those freshmen, playing the way they did, is amazing,” Buss said of Morel, Lutz and Laura Nickel, who combined for 43 points. “Our pressure really didn’t affect them; the whole year we put pressure on and it affected some teams, and today it did not. That’s a testament to their composure.”

The killer for the Chiefs in the second half was the Cardinals’ 3-point shooting. Marshall was 2-for-5 in the first half but caught fire in the final 18 minutes, making their final five shots from beyond the arc, including three from Morel.

“They got good post players and when we started to concentrating on them a little bit, they’d kick it out for a 3 and they’d hit it,” Buss said.

The teams traded punches throughout the first half, tying three times, including 11-all after a 3-pointer by Meister. The Cardinals followed with a 7-0 run before Wisconsin Dells answered with six straight points of its own.

After a layup by Pfeifer, who recorded a double-double with 14 points and 12 rebounds, Meister scored two buckets to cut the lead to 18-17 with 2:22 remaining in the half. The Chiefs went cold from there, however, committing three turnovers as the Cardinals closed the half on a 6-0 run to build a 24-17 lead at the break.

“I just thought, overall, we didn’t control the ball really well,” Buss said of his team’s 19 turnovers. “That’s too many to give them to give those girls extra chances.”

A contributing factor to the Chiefs’ offensive struggles was the Cardinals defense. Lutz and Nickel, standing a 6-foot and 5-foot-11, clogged up the lane while Marshall’s speedy guards were able to keep up with their Dells counterparts.

“We can usually drive in and finish pretty well inside, but they did a good job defending that,” Meister said.

While it’s a bittersweet end to the Chiefs first state trip, it was a memorable one according to Buss, Meister and Mace. Buss said coaching his alma mater to the state tournament is “a dream come true and something I’ll remember for my lifetime.”

Mace, one of the Chiefs three seniors along with Jamie Bates and Caroline Pakos, will also cherish the memories.

“This is the first time it was every done and we’re really proud of that,” she said. “Obviously we would have wished for a different outcome, but just spending time together and being here together, we were just really glad to be here. We did the best we could; they were just better than we were today.”


Wisconsin Dells 17 30 — 47

Marshall 24 34 — 58

WISCONSIN DELLS — Bates 0-2 0-0 0, Flock 0-0 0-0 0, Pfeifer 6-9 2-2 14, G. Myklebust 0-0 0-0 0, Mace 2-12 1-3 5, Smith 1-4 0-0 0, Meister 7-18 10-10 26. Totals 16-45 13-15 47.

MARSHALL — Arvin 4-6 0-0 10, Huettner 2-6 0-0 5, M. Morel 6-11 1-1 16, Lutz 6-12 5-7 17, M. Andrews 0-1 0-0 0, C. Morel 0-2 0-0 0, Nickel 2-8 5-6 10. Totals 20-46 11-14 58.

3-point goals — WD 2-8 (Meister 2-5, Mace 0-2, Pfeifer 0-1), M 7-11 (Arvin 2-3, Huettner 1-1, M. Morel 3-4, Nickel 1-1, Lutz 0-1, Morel 0-1). Rebounds — WD 18-18-36 (Pfeifer 12, Meister 7, Mace 7); M 11-12-23 (Lutz 8, M. Morel 5). Assists — WD 7 (Mace 3, Meister 2); M 16 (Morel 9, Arvin 3). Turnovers — WD 19, M 11. Blocks — WD 2 (Pfeifer 1), M 2 (Lutz 2). Total fouls — M 18, WD 14.

Follow Sean Davis on Twitter @SDavis_PDR.