If Friday’s 63-41 victory over Baraboo was one step forward for the Portage girls basketball team, Monday was two steps backward for the Warriors.
Portage struggled to get into much of an offensive rhythm and was unable to solve an aggressive Mt. Horeb defense, as the visiting Vikings left town with a 53-40 victory in a Badger North Conference game.
Mt. Horeb (5-15, 3-10 Badger North) picked up just its second victory in its last 13 games.
Portage (7-12, 4-8) looked like it had found its groove when it rolled to a 22-point win over Baraboo just three days earlier, but didn’t look like the same team against the Vikings on Monday.
“But we are the same team. We have the same girls. So what happened?” Portage coach Jessica Howe said. “Mt. Horeb came out tonight with intensity and determination to beat us, and they gave it to us right away. We gave them opportunities that they took advantage of. They got confident and then we lost our confidence, and we never got into our groove.”
Mt. Horeb made its move midway through the first half when it went on a 10-0 run to take a 15-7 lead. The Vikings, who made seven 3-pointers in the game, made two of them during the spurt. It included a banked-in 3-pointer from sophomore Julia Magnuson, who led all scorers with 15 points.
Portage trailed 21-13 with 4 minutes left in the first half when it was able to cut the deficit to 21-18 thanks to a 3-pointer and a layup from junior McKena Yelk, who led the Warriors with nine points.
Mt. Horeb took its biggest lead of the night with a 9-0 run that made it 37-24 with 10:20 to go. The spurt was finished off with back-to-back 3-pointers from freshman Olivia Burke and junior Catherine Stange.
Portage looked like it might finally make its run when Yelk scored four quick points to make it 43-37 with 2:03 remaining, but Mt. Horeb got a 3-pointer from junior Kenzie Coulthard on the other end of the floor. Then after Portage junior Brianna Brandner missed a 3-pointer for the Warriors, freshman Emma Anderson converted a three-point play that gave the Vikings a 49-37 lead with 1:22 to play.
Portage did get a 3-pointer from junior Abigail Leeland that made it 49-40 with 1:00 to go, but that bucket proved to be too little, too late, as the Vikings were able to avenge their 54-40 loss to Portage on Nov. 29 in Mt. Horeb.
One of Portage’s problems against Mt. Horeb was its inability to use its three-quarters-court press that worked so well against Baraboo on Friday night. The Warriors use the press after a made basket, and since they failed to make many baskets against the Vikings, the opportunity to press wasn’t there.
“We had 13 points (with 4 minutes left in the first half),” Howe said. “So when you don’t score, you don’t press, and that’s part of our game.”
Portage is scheduled to host Waunakee on Tuesday night, but the weather forecast suggests that game might get pushed back. The Warriors are also scheduled to host Sauk Prairie on Thursday night before opening the postseason with a regional quarterfinal game at home against Baraboo next Tuesday.
Mt. Horeb 26 27 — 53
Portage 20 20 — 40
MT. HOREB — Magnuson 6 1-1 15, Vesperman 2 0-1 4, Anderson 4 1-1 10, Burke 2 1-2 6, Wallace 0 2-2 2, Stange 3 0-0 8, Coulthard 2 3-4 8. Totals 19 8-11 53.
PORTAGE — Roth 2 2-2 7, Wilson 3 2-4 8, Yelk 3 2-2 9, Belleau 3 0-1 6, Brandner 3 1-4 7, Shortreed 0 0-2 0, Schwantz 0 0-2 0, Leeland 1 0-0 3. Totals 15 7-17 40.
3-point goals — MH 7 (Magnuson 2, Anderson 1, Burke 1, Stange 2, Coulthard 1), POR 3 (Roth 1, Yelk 1, Leeland 1). Total fouls — MH 13, POR 16.