It took some time for Portage to get going, but once it did, there wasn’t anything that was going to stop it.
After weathering a 7 ½ minute scoring drought early in the first half, Portage began to heat up, going on a 9-0 scoring run that gave it the lead for good on its way to a 71-45 pasting of Mount Horeb in a Badger North Conference game at Portage High School on Tuesday night.
Portage sophomore McKena Yelk gave Portage (1-1 in conference, 1-3 overall) a quick lead when she buried a 3-pointer in the game’s opening seconds, but the Warriors didn’t score again until sophomore Brianna Brandner converted on a 3-point play with 10:17 left in the half.
Brandner’s three points actually gave Portage a 6-5 lead, and the Warriors started to take control a few moments later when it went on its 9-0 run that was sparked by junior MacKenzie Roth’s quick four points, followd by another 3-pointer from Yelk, which gave Portage a 17-14 lead it would not relinquish the rest of the night.
Roth, who scored a game-high 23 points for Portage, said it was her team’s defense that allowed it to start putting points on the scoreboard.
“We had more intensity,” Roth said. “We really focused on defense in our last practices, and of course, defense is offense. That’s how you win games. I think we just came together as a team. With the three-game losing stretch it was tough, but we wanted to make a statement.”
Mount Horeb (1-1, 1-4) pulled within four at 26-22 when senior Lindsey LaBorde, who led the Vikings with 17 points, drained a 3-pointer with 1:35 left in the opening half. But the Warriors came up with the perfect response, when senior Hanne Anderson drove the baseline and scored while being fouled. She then made the free throw for a 3-point play, giving Portage a 29-22 lead with 1:16 left in the half.
Portage continued to stretch out its lead, as junior Morgan Bisch followed with a 3-pointer, and Roth got a steal and an easy layup a few moments later to make it 34-25.
Portage took its first double-digit lead at 37-27 on a bucket by Roth early in the second half. The lead grew to 19 when junior Tess Wilson, who finished with 11 points, scored on consecutive baskets about 20 seconds apart to give the Warriors a 55-36 lead with 7:10 to play.
The Warriors erased any doubt with a 13-0 run late in the game. The spurt included five straight points from Bisch, followd by a fast break layup by junior Taylor Bretsch. Junior Gemini Schwantz then got in on the scoring with a layup to finish the run and give Portage a 68-40 lead with 2:35 to go.
Portage head coach Jessica Howe, who picked up her first victory as the team’s head coach, said they are working hard to get the players to believe they can score like it did on Thursday night.
“We just have to show up to the game ready to go, so we’re not quite there yet,” Howe said. “It’s still building confidence, and tonight was huge for them. To put up 71 points after not scoring (for over 7 minutes) at the beginning of the game was awesome.”
The Warriors got offensive contributions from a variety of players. Ten different Warriors scored, including Bisch and Yelk, who finished with eight points each, followed by Brandner, who finished with seven.
Roth, the top returning scorer from a team that graduated four of its top five scorers, said the younger players are showing they fit in at the varsity level.
“We have a lot of leaders on the team, and not so many followers, which is a good thing I think,” Roth said. “We all have to step up and we all have to play together as a team.”
PORTAGE 71, MOUNT HOREB 45
Mount Horeb 27 18 - 45
Portage 34 37 - 71
MOUNT HOREB – LaBorde 17, Ollendick 3, Sporle 4, Coulthard 4, Nesheim 2, Geisler 2, Stange 2, Magnuson 6, Toay 5. Totals 16 9-18 45.
PORTAGE – Brandner 7, Belleau 2, Anderson 3, Wilson 1, Yelk 8, Roth 23, Kibby 4, Bretsch 2, Bisch 8, Schwantz 3. Totals 26 13-22 71.
3-point goals – MH 4 (LaBorde 2, Ollendick 1, Magnuson 1), P 6 (Yelk 2, Roth 2, Bisch 2). Total fouls – MH 17, P 15.