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Spartan girls rally past D.C. Everest, play Neenah at 1 p.m. Saturday

The Superior High School girls basketball team is one win away from a return trip to state after a 50-46 victory over D.C. Everest Thursday night in Eau Claire.

The Spartans play again Saturday in Stevens Point. Neenah defeated Oshkosh West 52-45 in the other sectional semifinal. Saturday’s game will be played at 1 p.m.

“My girls really battled against a physical team who was bigger and deeper than us, but we dove for every loose ball, blocked out every possession and played great help defense,” said Phil Roe, Spartan head coach. “This is a huge win for our team, and I believe it made our team much stronger and better prepared for Saturday.”

For the second straight game, the Spartans needed a second-half rally to keep their season alive.

Superior fell behind quickly in the first quarter as the Evergreens scored the first basket of the night and then went on an 8-2 run to go up 10-2.

The Spartans would not take the lead until the fourth quarter. Everest added to its lead on the first play of the quarter when Katelyn Schmoll put in a shot to make it 36-33. A steal by Superior’s Alyssa Correll and the pass ahead to Mackenzie Kmecik put Superior within one. Following a free throw by the Evergreens, Kmecik scored again in the paint off a pass from Hailey Kontny to tie the game at 37-37.

Jessica Lindstrom followed with a block to keep the game tied, and Kontny gave Superior its first lead of the night with a left-handed scoop shot.

Everest regained the lead, but in the final minutes of the game Kontny went on a tear. Her floater with 2:22 to play had Superior trailing 44-43, and she kept the Spartans one point away with a layup the next time down the floor.

“What makes us such a good team is there’s always someone to step up,” Lindstrom said. “That’s what happened tonight.”

Kontny finally put Superior in front with less than a minute to play when she made a left-handed layup, was fouled and sunk the extra free throw for a 48-46 lead. On the defensive end, Kontny got position on Everest’s free throw miss to draw another foul, and she made both free throws in the one-and-one bonus for the final score of 50-46.

“Hailey thrives under pressure and loves those big moments,” Roe said. “That’s a gift that not every player has. There were big-time plays made by big time seniors at crucial moments and the whole team really scratched, fought and clawed the entire game to get this victory.”

Senior Rachal Fregin also came up big for the Spartans in the closing seconds. Following Kontny’s free throws, Fregin got a hand on the ball on Everest’s possession to come up with a steal. She then snagged the rebound on the Evergreens’ final shot and held on to run out the clock.

Kontny finished with a game-high 22 points, half of which came in the fourth quarter. Lindstrom added eight points for Superior, which was enough to put her over the 2,000 career point mark. She scored her 2,000th point with 2:53 to play in the fourth quarter on a pass from Tailor Schuster.

“I was nervous this entire game,” Lindstrom said. “Now I’m just relieved it’s over.”

Roe said he is extremely proud of his senior post player, who is the first Spartan basketball player ever to score 2,000 career points.

“She’s worked hard for this accomplishment, and she is very humble and modest about her own abilities — that is rare in today’s athletes,” Roe said. “It’s a joy to be able to coach her.”

Roe also praised Superior’s three senior captains for their composure under pressure from the Evergreen crowd, which included three fan buses.

“Rachel hit a big 3-pointer and came up with four big rebounds and a huge steal,” Roe said. “Jessica was relentless against 6-foot-3 Wisconsin Valley Conference Player of the Year Taylor Hodell, had some big baskets underneath and led our team on the court and in the locker room. And Hailey was ‘Ms. Clutch’ with the huge and-one basket and going 3-for-3 from the line, all in the final 1:10 of the game.”

Superior plans to travel today and spend the night about 45 minutes from Stevens Point.

Saturday’s game will be streamed live on and broadcast on radio station WNXR.

D.C. Everest............................ 17         9           8          12   —                   46

Superior................................... 10         9          14         17   —                   50

D.C. Everest — Taylor Hodell 13, Mackenzie Mathies 9, Katelyn Schmoll 8, Haley Kroll 6, Hannah Tipple 5, Makayla Pagel 3, Mali Theiss 2.

3-point goals — Kroll, Mathies, Schmoll.

Superior — Hailey Kontny 22, Jessica Lindstrom 8, Alyssa Correll 7, Mackenzie Kmecik 6, Tailor Schuster 4, Rachal Fregin 3.

3-point goals — Fregin, Correll.