CHIPPEWA FALLS — The Wisconsin Dells girls basketball team continues to make history.
Led by 20 points from senior Jenna Mace, along with 17 from junior Katelyn Meister, the Chiefs earned the program’s first-ever trip to the WIAA state girls basketball tournament, beating Hayward 46-29 in a Division 3 sectional championship game at Chippewa Falls High School on Saturday afternoon.
With the win, Wisconsin Dells advances to play Marshall in a Division 3 state semifinal at 1:35 p.m. on Thursday at the Resch Center in Ashwaubenon.
Meister scored 12 in the first half, including a pair of early buckets that gave the Chiefs an 8-2 lead. She later hit a 3-pointer that put the Chiefs up 18-9 and helped them enter the half with a 24-13 lead.
The performance for Meister came just two days after she scored 23 points in a 47-46 win over Gale-Ettrick-Trempealeau in the sectional semifinal.
“During warmups, I was shooting well,” Meister said. “Going in with confidence is a big part of it. I feel like I knew when to take my shots and when not to take my shots.”
Mace took over in the second half. She scored 13 after the break, doing most of her damage from the free throw line, where she made 14 of 16 overall, and 11 of 12 in the second half.
Mace said she had more opportunities in the second half because the Hayward defense shifted its focus to Meister.
“They just kind of started shutting down Kate, just because prior to this game, Kate kind of went off,” Mace said. “Once I started driving and realized they were fouling me, I just figured I had the opportunities to do it. I’m quicker than most of them, so I just kind of blew by them.”
Hayward briefly got within single digits in the second half, but Wisconsin Dells went on a 9-0 run to put the game away. The run ended with Mesiter’s layup that made it 36-18 with 8:40 to go.
The victory featured another standout defensive effort by the Chiefs. In four postseason games, Wisconsin Dells is giving up an average of just 32.25 points per contest. The 29 points for Hayward was a season low.
Wisconsin Dells head coach Bob Buss said his team has stepped up its play on the defensive end in the last few weeks.
“It’s a team defense; it’s not an individual defense and the girls have bought into it,” Buss said. “I think we steadily got better as the year went on. This last month, we’ve been playing outstanding defense, and that’s the key.”
WISCONSIN DELLS 46, HAYWARD 29
Hayward 13 16 — 29
Wisconsin Dells 24 22 — 46
HAYWARD — Miller 0, Neff 5 4-6 14, Neff 2 2-2 6, Halberg 1 0-0 2, Myer 3 1-2 7. Totals 11 7-10 29.
WISCONSIN DELLS — Pfeifer 1 1-4 3, G. Myklebust 0 1-2 1, Mace 3 14-16 20, Smith 1 3-5 5, Meister 6 4-7 17. Totals 11 23-34 46.
3-point goals — Hay 0, WD 1 (Meister 1). Total fouls — WD 9, Hay 21. Fouled out — Myer.