UWS women advance to UMAC title game
A well-balanced University of Wisconsin-Superior women's basketball team advanced to the UMAC championship game with a 66-51 win over Martin Luther Wednesday night at Mertz Mortorelli Gym.
A well-balanced University of Wisconsin-Superior women’s basketball team advanced to the UMAC championship game with a 66-51 win over Martin Luther Wednesday night at Mertz Mortorelli Gym.
The Yellowjackets host the Northwestern Eagles in the UMAC title game at 7 p.m. Saturday with the winner getting the UMAC’s automatic berth in the NCAA Division III tournament.
UWS got scoring from 10 different players led by Sarah Lekson’s career-high 14 points.
Hailey Kontny added nine points, and Bailee Bartunek and Justine Larson chipped in with eight points apiece.
“That’s what our team is - every night we have a different person stepping up,” UWS coach Don Mulhern said. “We have different girls with different skills and when you bring them all to the table, you become pretty good.
“Every girl that comes off the bench is ready to go; we have no dropoff,and that makes this a very special team.”
Grace Schultz led Martin Luther with a game-high 19 points. Erin Schmeling was next with 11 points.
Any ideas UWS may have had of coasting into Saturday’s title game were quickly squashed.
The Yellowjackets struggled in the first half, shooting just 11-of-36 from the floor, which led to trailing 14-7 after one quarter and by as many as eight points at three different stages of the first half.
Martin Luther’s last eight-point lead was 17-9 less than three minutes into the second quarter.
UWS followed with an 11-3 run and tied the game at 20-20 on a Kontny 3-pointer.
After Martin Luther’s Mariah Schoof and Kontny traded 3-pointers, UWS took its first lead of the game, 25-23, on a Larson jumper with 2:20 left in the half.
The game then saw ties at 25 and 27, and the half ended with UWS leading 30-27 thanks to three free throws, two by Larson and won by Lekson.
UWS shot just 11-of-36 from the floor in the first half and 13 of Martin Luther’s turnovers led to eight UWS steals.
The Yellowjackets played their best ball in the third quarter, outscoring Martin Luther 17-6 and opening up a 47-33 lead.
“The third quarter has been our quarter (all season),” Mulhern said. “I don’t have a magic answer for that, but our shooting wasn’t what we expected in the first half. We had good looks, but they wouldn’t fall. We made some adjustments at halftime. Our girls really do a good job with the adjustments, and they also played very good defense.”
Bartunek scored six of Superior’s points in the third quarter and Brittany Laehn made three free throws in the final 51 seconds to give UWS its largest lead of the game, 47-33.
Lekson took over in the fourth quarter, scoring nine of her 14 points in the opening four minutes, including three straight baskets which gave UWS a 53-33 lead.
“Just like the last time we played Scholastica, coach put me on the baseline and the plan was to work the ball down low,” said Lekson, who also had five rebounds, three assists and two steals. “He likes that I would take my one dribble and go up. He talked to me about it at halftime, so it was planned to work the ball down low.
“I felt good to score, but it was really nice to make sure we had that cushion.”
UWS matched its 20-point lead twice down the stretch, including 58-38 on a Grace Kennedy basket, and then 60-40 on two Allie Nelson free throws.
Saturday’s title game pits the top two teams in UMAC. UWS finished in first place with a 16-0 record. Northwestern, which was picked to win the UMAC in the preseason coaches’ poll, finished second at 14-2.
Both Eagle losses were to UWS, 60-50 on Jan. 16 and 68-56 on Feb. 19.
“It should be a fun one,” Mulhern said. “It’ll be a competitive game - they’re a good team and very well coached.”
UWS will be playing in its second straight playoff championship game. Last year the Yellowjackets won the WIAC regular-season title, but then lost to UW-Stevens Point in the championship game.
“I’m so excited,” Lekson said. “Last year we had such a great atmosphere, and it was such a great game. We’re hoping for the same atmosphere this year, but with a different outcome.”
’JACKET JOTTINGS: UWS is 3-0 all-time against Martin Luther with all wins coming this season. During the regular season UWS defeated the Knights 63-47 and 81-63. … Superior is 5-4 all-time in playoff games but has never played in an NCAA Division III tournament. … The Yellowjackets are 12-0 at home.
Martin Luther (13-14, 7-9)
Grace Schultz 7-9 3-5 19; Erin Schmeling 3-4 4-4 11; Mariah Schoof 2-8 2-2 8; Jade St. Germaine 1-4 4-4 6; Faith Schroeder 2-5 0-0 4; Leah Nass 1-7 1-2 3; Jessica Friebe 0-3 0-2 0; Hailey Johnson 0-1 0-0 0; Moriah Hackba th 0-2 0-0 0; Sarah Koelpin 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 16-44 14-19 51.
UW-Superior (23-3, 16-0)
Sarah Lekson 6-11 2-4 14; Hailey Kontny 3-10 1-1 9; Bailee Bartunek 3-3 2-2 8; Justine Larson 3-9 2-2 8; Grace Kennedy 3-5 1-1 7; Brittany Laehn 1-4 3-4 5; Hadley Skalmoski 2-4 1-2 5; Allie Nelson 0-4 4-4 4; Hannah Norlin 2-5 0-1 4; Allyssa Lindberg 0-6 2-2 2; Amelia Leger 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 23-62 18-23 66.
Martin Luther............... 14 13 6 18 - 51
UW-Superior................ 7 23 17 19 - 66
3-point goals-ML 5-14 (Schultz 2-3; Schoof 2-8; Schmeling 1-1; Friebe 0-1; Schroeder 0-1), UWS 2-11 (Kontny 2-2; Nelson 0-3; Lindberg 0-4; Leger 0-1; Lekson 0-1). Rebounds-ML 30 (Nass 6; Schmeling 6), UWS 39 (Kennedy 6; Bartunek 6). Assists-ML 7 (Schmeling 3), UWS 13 (Lekson 3; Kontny 3). Total fouls-ML 22, UWS 21. Technical fouls-None. A-284.