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College women’s basketball: Shorthanded Yellowjackets still too much for rebuilding Saints

Christian and Parendo lead the way as UWS uses pressure defense en route to first win of the season.

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Sam Parendo (11) and Elise Besonen (22), both of the University of Wisconsin-Superior, work to keep a loose ball away from Emma Schmidt (24) of St. Scholastica on Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2021, at Reif Gymnasium in Duluth. Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

Wisconsin-Superior might not have the tallest women’s basketball team but the Yellowjackets are going to take advantage of what they do have, namely quickness and athleticism, and the best way to utilize that is to press.

And press some more.

Sam Parendo of Proctor had 14 points, six rebounds and two steals and Kaelyn Christian added 12 points, four rebounds and a career-high six steals to lead UWS to its first victory of the season, a 71-45 nonconference win over St. Scholastica before Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2021, in the Saints’ home opener before 133 at Reif Gymnasium.

UWS, which has won 18 straight in the series, finished with 15 steals while forcing 22 turnovers.

“We’re going to press as much as we can, the whole game,” Christian said. “The only times we don’t run it is if it’s a fastbreak. It makes it harder for teams because it works the shot clock while also being aggressive and challenging them as they try to bring the ball up the court.”

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A press however, can be exhausting, especially when you’re playing with a short bench as the Yellowjackets have been dealing with all season.

UWS, which was only playing with about half its team due to COVID-19 protocols and injuries, including a pair of starters, trotted out a lineup Wednesday with four players 5-foot-9 or shorter.

“Our mentality is, get through the adversity,” Christian said. “I think all teams are going to go through stuff this year, with COVID, just like we did last year, so we just have to roll with the punches and get through it. I think you’re only as strong as your weakest player.”

If that’s the case, UWS should be in good shape. Despite the missing players, the Yellowjackets still had nine players score, with Paige Servais and Elise Besonen adding 11 points apiece.

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Paige Servais (4) of the University of Wisconsin-Superior takes the ball around Eve Turner (25) of St. Scholastica on Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2021, at Reif Gymnasium in Duluth. Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

“We’ve been playing mismatched basketball,” UWS coach Zach Otto-Fischer said. “We’re going to have those plays where we’re going to be out of position because we have players in there who don’t know. I give credit to our players for sticking with it. We found out Friday before we went to Eau Claire that half our team couldn’t come with us; we were literally waiting on the bus for them. So we’ve battled through some adversity, and all you can ask if for them to play as tough as they can, and they’ve done that.”

UWS (1-3) led 36-20 at the half before CSS (0-2) played even with the Yellowjackets in the third quarter behind strong play from sophomore forward Megan Hurley, who led the Saints with 13 points while adding eight rebounds and two blocks.

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“Megan is going to be a special player I think,” said first-year Saints coach Jason Schmitz. “Her challenge is going to be to develop more of her perimeter skills, but she’s comfortable leading the break right now, and she’s shifty in the low post. She does some of those old-man moves with her spins inside. She’s fun to watch.”

Miranda Broberg added 11 points, Karli Nixon had nine points and Emma Schmidt had three points and a career-high 10 rebounds for CSS, which only has one senior and is clearly in a rebuilding phase as the program enters a new league.

UWS continues nonconference action when the Yellowjackets play St. Benedict at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 23, at Mertz Mortorelli Gym in Superior.

CSS plays that same St. Benedict team at 1 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 20, at Reif Gym in the Saints’ first-ever MIAC contest.

“The first half we looked a little bit scared, a little bit nervous, playing in front of mom and dad and all our home fans for the first time in darn-near two years,” Schmitz said. “Our pace wasn’t great offensively and their pressure kind of took us out of our motion a little bit, so instead of continuing to attack it, we just relaxed instead of taking advantage of some situations. That third quarter our pace got better, and like I told them, if you could bottle up the third quarter all the time, we’ll be alright.”

Wisconsin-Superior 13-23-19-16—71
St. Scholastica 8-12-18-7—45
Wisconsin-Superior — Paige Servais 11, Kaelyn Christian 12, Sam Parendo 14, Mady Sanders 4, Bryton Kukowski 4, Allie Zimmer 6, Makenna Guden 5, Elise Besonen 11, Hallie Evans 4. Totals 28 10-16 71.
3-point goals — Servais, Parendo 2, Guden, Besonen.
St. Scholastica — Megan Hurley 13, Emma Schmidt 3, Miranda Broberg 11, Amelia Zmuda 3, Eve Turner 2, Karli Nixon 1, Ashley Faur 1, Liz Frase 2, Elizabeth Jankila 1. Totals 14 15-24 45.
3-point goals — Schmidt, Nixon.

Jon Nowacki joined the News Tribune in August 1998 as a sports reporter. He grew up in Stephen, Minnesota, in the northwest corner of the state, where he was actively involved in school and sports and was a proud member of the Tigers’ 1992 state championship nine-man football team.

After graduating in 1993, Nowacki majored in print journalism at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, serving as editor of the college paper, “The Aquin,” and graduating with honors in December 1997. He worked with the Associated Press during the “tobacco trial” of 1998, leading to the industry’s historic $206 billion settlement, before moving to Duluth.

Nowacki started as a prep reporter for the News Tribune before moving onto the college ranks, with an emphasis on Minnesota Duluth football, including coverage of the Bulldogs’ NCAA Division II championships in 2008 and 2010.

Nowacki continues to focus on college sports while filling in as a backup on preps, especially at tournament time. He covers the Duluth Huskies baseball team and auto racing in the summer. When time allows, he also writes an offbeat and lighthearted food column entitled “The Taco Stand,” a reference to the “Taco Jon” nickname given to him by his older brother when he was a teenager that stuck with him through college. He has a teenage daughter, Emma.

Nowacki can be reached at jnowacki@duluthnews.com or (218) 380-7027. Follow him on Twitter @TacoJon1.
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