After making the state tournament for the first time ever last season, coach Bob Buss knows his Wisconsin Dells girls basketball team is going to get everyone’s best shot.
The Lady Chiefs got that Tuesday night as they struggled out of the gates but recovered for a 52-39 win over Baraboo in a non-conference game at Wisconsin Dells High School. Senior Katelyn Meister scored a game-high 22 points to help lead Wisconsin Dells to a second-straight win over the Thunderbirds.
“I thought Baraboo was a little quicker to the ball. Our physicality and rebounding wasn’t our best tonight, but we hung in there and hit some shots when we needed to,” Buss said.
A pair of key runs proved to be the difference in the game, with Wisconsin Dells (10-1) riding the second of those down the stretch in the second half. After taking a 38-27 lead, Baraboo (1-11) cut the deficit to 38-30 on a 3-point play by senior Abby Moon with 9 minutes, 30 seconds left to play.
The T-Bids went cold from there as a 3-minute scoreless stretch allowed Wisconsin Dells to take a 44-30 lead. Meister scored all six of the points during the spurt, including a layup off a steal and a midrange jumper that followed a pair of missed free throws by Baraboo senior Lia Kieck.
A layup by Baraboo senior Haley Hannagan ended the run and cut the lead back to 44-32 with 6:30 to go, but again the Chiefs squashed out any sort of momentum brewing. After a back-and-forth stretch, Baraboo had four straight empty possessions, including a pair of missed layups, until senior Alexis Johnson got a hook shot to fall with 2:17 remaining to pull the T-Birds back within 44-34.
Wisconsin Dells kept the lead from creeping back down to single digits as senior Bethany Smith and Hannagan traded free throws to make it 46-36 with 1:22 left before the Lady Chiefs iced things away from the line.
The T-Birds provided plenty of pressure defensively making Wisconsin Dells work for everything, but Buss was pleased with his team’s ability to counteract the stress.
“I feel you have to beat pressure by attacking pressure and we tried to get to the basket and did a better job in the second half,” he said.
That pressure proved to be too much early on in the first half. After trading punches, Baraboo started to pull away in the first half as it built a 21-16 lead. With 7:06 left in the first half. Again Wisconsin Dells was able to stifle Baraboo’s momentum as the Lady Chiefs closed the half on a 12-0 run.
A pair of Meister layups sandwiched a runner by Smith to put Wisconsin Dells up 22-21 with 4 minutes to go, before Meister, senior Jamie Pfeifer and sophomore Kayla Gray each added layups down the stretch to send the Lady Chiefs into the break with a 28-21 lead.
“To have that run to end the half, to go up 7 the way we played, I feel, was key for us,” Buss said of his team’s offensive struggles early on, which included a number of missed shots around the basket.
“We made some adjustments on their offense, came out with some better energy in the second half and hit some runs.”
Along with Meister, Smith added 12 points while Pfiefer chipped in eight. While pleased with the win, Buss believes his team can improve on handling pressure, especially with some key games coming up.
After taking on Platteville (8-3) at JustAgame Fieldhouse on Saturday, the Lady Chiefs travel to DeForest (9-4) next Tuesday.
“The next couple weeks are going to be a challenge but hopefully we live up to it and we play better and aggressive,” he said.
WISCONSIN DELLS 52, BARABOO 39
BARABOO — Kieck 5 1-5 12, A. Moon 1 1-1 3, Hannagan 4 6-6 14, Horstman 1 0-0 2, Johnson 3 1-3 8. Totals 14 9-15 39.
WISCONSIN DELLS — Pfeifer 3 2-2 8, Meister 9 3-4 22, Gray 2 0-1 5, Smith 3 5-6 12, G. Myklebust 2 1-4 5. Totals 19 11-17 52.
3-point goals — BAR 2 (Kieck 1, Johnson 1), WD 3 (Meister 1, Gray 1, Smith 1). Total fouls — BAR 14, WD 15.