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Transition going well for UWS basketball team

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The transition to a new head coach for the University of Wisconsin-Superior women’s basketball team has been going pretty well.

Under first-year head coach Zach Otto-Fisher, the Yellowjackets improved to 3-2 with a 78-58 win over the Hamline Pipers Tuesday night in Mertz Mortorelli Gymnasium.

“So far, so good,” Otto-Fisher said. “We returned all but one player from last year and I knew two or three of the girls from high school, so it’s been a pretty smooth transition.”

Prior to spending one season as an assistant coach under Don Mulhern, Otto-Fisher was a head coach for three seasons at Glencoe-Silver Lake, Minn.

“We’ve gotten our feet wet by scheduling early, tough non-conference games,” Otto-Fisher said. “You want to play those WIAC and MIAC schools, it’s been a good challenge for us. We learn from every game, even the losses you can learn something.”

The Yellowjackets’ final tune-up before play begins in the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference is against UW-Stout at 7 p.m. today. UWS defeated the Blue Devils 82-68 on Nov. 18.

“It’s never easy playing a team twice in a short period of time, but the girls are ready and they know what they have to do to excel in that game,” Otto-Fisher said.

It took the Yellowjackets a while to excel Tuesday night as they trailed 16-10 after one quarter and led just 35-27 at the half.

Things changed in the second half as UWS outscored Hamline 34-11 in the third quarter for a 69-38 lead. The ’Jackets eventually took a pair of 32-point leads early in a fourth quarter before Hamline made things a bit respectable with a late run.

Hannah Norlin and Hailey Kontny led the Yellowjackets with 19 points apiece. Norlin, who scored 12 of her points in the second half, also grabbed eight rebounds, while Kontny had five rebounds and two steals. Justine Larson only scored two points, but dished out nine assists, grabbed four rebounds and had four steals.

“Nobody could stop Hanna today, and Justine also played well,” Otto-Fisher said. “When you dish out nine assists, that says something.”

Alaina Quaranta led Hamline with a game-high 21 points, including 10 alone in the first quarter when she made two of the Pipers’ four 3-pointers. Hamline finished the game with six 3-pointers.

“It was one of those games where we knew what they were going to do, we knew No. 24 was a really good shooter and she proved why she was a good shooter,” Otto-Fisher said. “But that’s what happens when your two steps behind, we had to make adjustments. We have a rule that if we give up too many 3-pointers we have to run killers (floor stops) the next day at practice. So, when they got to that 3-4 mark, they were like we don’t want to give up any more so we don’t have to run tomorrow.”

UWS tied the game at 16-16 two minutes into the second quarter on baskets by Norlin, Ameila Leger and Kontny, and another basket by Kontny, followed by a 3-pointer by Eva Reinertsen gave UWS a 21-18 lead with 6:50 left in the half.

After the game was tied at 23 and 25, UWS ended the first half with a 10-2 run and took a 35-27 lead into the locker room at the intermission.

The Yellowjackets broke the game open in the third quarter by outscoring the Pipers 34-11 and taking a 69-38 lead.

One play that excited the local fans during the third quarter came when former Superior Spartan Ellie Leadstrom assisted on a basket by another former Spartan, Mackenzie Kmecik, which gave UWS a 62-35 lead.

“What a great one,” Otto-Fisher said. “Two Superior girls. I pulled them off to the side and said ‘that’s what you use to do on that court, now welcome a mile down the road to our court.’”

Kmecik finished with four points and two assists, while Leadstrom had five rebounds, three assists and a steal.

UWS eventually took a pair of 32-point leads early in the fourth quarter — the first 72-40 on a Kontny 3-pointer, and then 78-46 on a Madison Strube free throw.

Eta Sorensen, a 5-foot-5 sophomore from Clintonville, was supposed to shoot two free throws, but she suffered an injury when fouled, which led to Strube entering the game and making the second of two attempts.

Eight fourth-quarter points by freshman Jaelin Jones helped the Pipers outscore the Yellowjackets 20-9 and cut the final deficit to just 20 points.

’JACKET JOTTINGS: Eighteen Yellowjackets saw playing time Tuesday night. 

HAMLINE (1-3)

Alaina Quaranta 9-17 0-2 21; Reilly Geistfeld 4-12 0-0 9; Jaelin Jones 2-3 4-8 8; Morgen Coleman 2-10 2-2 7; Kaeli Stayer 2-8 0-0 5; Molly Wampler 1-4 0-0 2; Emma Larson 1-2 0-0 2; Mar. Ortega-Flowers 1-1 0-0 2; Aly Sartain 1-1 0-1 2; Kayla Noble 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 23-59 6-13 58.

UW-SUPERIOR (3-2)

Hannah Norlin 8-14 3-3 19; Hailey Kontny 8-12 2-4 19; Taylor Kane 2-3 5-6 9; Brittany Laehn 2-7 3-4 8; Eva Reinertsen 3-7 1-2 8; Mackenzie Kmecik 2-2 0-0 4; Amelia Leger 2-6 0-0 4; Justine Larson 1-6 0-0 2; Jade Tucker 1-4 0-1 2; Kaly Kostrova 0-2 2-2 2; Madison Strube 0-0 1-2 1; August Gordon 0-0 0-0 0; Etta Sorenson 0-0 0-0 0; Lindsey Jalivay 0-1 0-0 0; Kourtney Palmi 0-1 0-0 0; Ellie Leadstrom 0-4 0-0 0; Morgan Anderson 0-0 0-0 0; Alisha Ross 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 29-69 17-24 78.

Hamline............... 16     11     11     20    —    58

UW-Superior........ 10     25     34       9    —    78

3-point goals—Hamline 6-19 (Quaranta 3-6; Coleman 1-2; Geistfeld 1-4; Stayer 1-4; Wampler 0-3), UWS 3-15 (Reinertsen 1-3; Kontny 1-1; Laehn 1-4; Leger 0-3; Larson 0-1; Jalivay 0-1; Palmi 0-1; Leadstrom 0-1). Fouled out—None. Rebounds—Hamline 31 (Coleman 6), UWS 48 (Norlin 8). Assists—Hamline 10 (Wampler 4), UWS 18 (Larson 9). Total fouls—Hamline 20, UWS 19. Technical fouls—None. A-193.

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