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Lady Vikings hang on for slim win in state semi-final

GREEN BAY — Nobody said it would be easy and it certainly wasn’t, but the Colfax girls’ basketball team used the solid defense fans had seen them play all year and hit just enough free throws down the stretch to pull out a 42-41 win over The Prairie School in a WIAA state tournament semi-final game Thursday, March 14.The tournament was held at the Resch Center in Green Bay for the first time rather than the usual Kohl Center in Madison.

Colfax coach Joe Doucette knew the Hawks team centered around their junior point guard Gabrielle Ortiz who averaged 21 points a game and has already had several Division I college offers. But with Ryleigh Prochnow covering her with backup by plenty of other Viking players, Ortiz was held to 15 points on 6 for 23 shooting from the field. Although Ortiz knocked down a pair of deep three pointers, she was just 2 for 12 from long range and hit only 1 of 4 free throws in the game.

Meanwhile, after Colfax fell behind 5-0 to start the game, Prochnow put the Vikings on the scoreboard with a trey and Mallie Doucette knotted things up with a pair of free throws. The Hawks regained the lead on a three ball after Colfax came up empty on four straight possessions which included two missed three point attempts and a blown layup, but Braanna Steen hit two free tosses then took an assist from Prochnow for a layup and a 9-8 Colfax lead. The Hawks’ Sarah Johnson canned a short jumper to put her team back up and another missed three point attempt on the Vikings’ part left them behind 10-9 at the end of the quarter.

The Hawks’ post player Kate Andreucci had picked up two fouls already so Steen was the go to player as she scored from underneath twice and added a free throw early in the second stanza to put Colfax back up 14-11. Both teams were cold from the field for the next two minutes as the Hawks, who definitely weren’t afraid to put the ball up, missed seven shots in that span while the Vikings came up empty three times. After a Prairie School bucket, Hover finally nailed a triple for a 17-12 lead but after a T.V. timeout, Ortiz returned the favor with one of her own. Steen added a free throw and after another Hawk bucket, the Vikings’ woes from long range continued as they missed another three pointer and Steen had a final shot questionably blocked at the buzzer, ending the half with the Vikings up just 18-17.

“Braanna came up with some big points in the second quarter with Andreucci in foul trouble,” coach Doucette said. “That gave us a lot of confidence and we began to believe we could win this game.”

Prochnow went to the hoop twice and scored both times to give her team some breathing room at 22-17, and Doucette knocked down two more free tosses then canned a triple just a minute later for a 27-19 lead. But an eight point run by the Hawks in the next three and a half minutes knotted things up. Dannielle Dachel then chose a great time to hit her only shot from the field as she slid right down the middle of the Hawks’ defense and set the ball in the hoop with three seconds left and the Vikings were up 29-27 heading into the final quarter.

The Hawks played right into coach Doucette’s hands when they picked up their seventh team foul just 17 seconds into the quarter after Ortiz misfired on a three point attempt. Dachel calmly drained two free throws and after a bucket from Andreucci, Steen hit two more free throws. Ortiz tried to take the game in her own hands as she hit a triple then stole the ball, and after two of her shots missed the mark she scored on a layup and the Vikings were up just 35-34. After another missed three point attempt on the Viking’s part, the Hawks took advantage and Megan Wolf gave the Hawks a lead on her own triple with 4:27 left. Doucette zipped a pass to Steen under the hoop for a bucket and a 37-37 tie but Ortiz quickly put her team back up with a short jumper. With 2:44 to go, Doucette hit yet two more free throws and less than a minute later, the Hawks committed their tenth team foul, sending Prochnow to the line for the double bonus. She hit 1 of 2 and with .33 left, Hover went to the charity stripe and she also hit 1 of 2 for a 41-39 lead.

With just 15.3 showing on the clock, Colfax picked up their seventh team foul and it just happened to be against Ortiz. Ortiz had been shooting 74% from the free throw line on the season, but couldn’t get the first one in the hoop. With the ball under the Hawks basket, coach Doucette called a couple of timeouts to get his offense set. Hover was fouled again and she missed her first free toss but made the second one for a 42-39 lead. The Hawks missed a three pointer with 8 seconds left but forced a turnover by the Vikings on an Ortiz steal, but a layup at the buzzer wasn’t enough as the Vikings escaped with the one point win.

“We had a ton of respect for Ortiz and her team,” coach Doucette said after his first win at the state level. “We made one more play at the end and we hit just enough free throws to win. In the last couple of minutes I told the girls if we were up by two, we didn’t want to give up a three point play. We trusted Ryleigh to hold Ortiz down and she did with a lot of help from her teammates. We had a balance in scoring like we have had all year because our players are very team orientated. Getting into the bonus early was a big plus because I think we are one of the best free throw shooting team around. This win was huge for our program and we know playing Algoma for the state championship will be a tough task but we’ll show up and hopefully play a good game,” he added.

Steen led the Vikings with 16 points and 11 rebounds while Doucette, who made just one shot from the field, went 6 for 6 from the foul line and finished with nine points. The team was 17 for 23 at the charity stripe and were just 3 for 18 from behind the arc. The Hawks finished 4 for 8 at the foul line and 5 of 21 from three point land.

COLFAX (42) Steen 5-6-7-16, Doucette 1-6-6-9, Prochnow 3-1-2-8, Hover 1-2-4-5, Dachel 1-2-4-4

THE PRAIRIE SCHOOL (41) Ortiz 6-1-4-15, Andreucci 3-2-2-8, S. Woodward 3-0-0-7, Wolf 2-0-0-6, A. Gaertig 1-1-2-3, S. Johnson 1-0-0-2

THREE POINTERS: Wolf 2, Ortiz 2, Doucette 1, Prochnow 1, Hover 1, Woodward 1