By Marlys Kruger
GREEN BAY — There were plenty of highs and a few lows when the Colfax girls’ basketball team left the Resch Center in Green Bay after playing in the Division 4 WIAA state championship game March 16. A definite high was actually making it to the championship game after beating a tough team from The Prairie School just two days earlier. Squaring off against the 25-2 Algoma Wolves, a team who won a game earlier in the season against Division 3 state champion Kewaunee, turned out to be a much bigger task. Algoma had won their semi-final game 62-34 over a pretty good Cuba City team, and after sticking with the Wolves through the first half, the Vikings couldn’t get the ball in the basket enough times in the second half and eventually dropped the title game 46-30.
Colfax ended their season with a 26-2 record which is the most wins for a girls’ team in school history. And both losses came to a state champion team with one by Minneapolis DeLaSalle (three time straight Minnesota State champion as of Saturday) and this Algoma team. It was the third appearance for the Colfax girls at the big show and their first time to play in the finals. The Wolves had been there six times and were the runner up just two years ago, losing to Eau Claire Regis.
One of the lows for the Lady Vikings in this championship game was their point total. Their previous low was 33 against the afore mentioned DeLaSalle team, but the Wolves defense had a lot to do with holding the Vikings down. Full court pressure applied by Algoma through most of the game kept the Vikings from getting into any flow on the offensive end. When they did manage to get off an uncontested shot from long range, the ball didn’t find the hoop as it had so many times throughout the season. Entering the tournament, the Vikings were shooting 32% from behind the arc but they wound up hitting just 1 for 16 in the game.
After falling behind 2-0, Braanna Steen put Colfax up with a short jumper and a free throw, and it looked like the Vikings would have their way in the paint most of the game as Steen added two more buckets and Taylor Shipman added a pair from underneath. But Algoma kept countering with their own baskets and with the score tied at 11-11, Ryleigh Prochnow pulled down an offensive rebound for the Vikings and was fouled with .8 on the clock. After knocking down both free throws, Colfax was up 13-11 at the end of the first quarter.
The Wolves opened the second quarter with six straight points to take a 17-13 lead but Steen stopped the run with a free throw. After Shipman came up with a steal on the other end of the court, Mallie Doucette drove through the lane for a layup and the Vikings were down 17-16. Both teams came up empty on their next two possessions before Hannah Hover connected for the only triple of the game for Colfax off a feed from Steen and the Vikings were back up 19-17. But the Wolves’ Baleigh Delorit countered that three pointer with her own to put her team back up and after Steen knotted the score at 20-20 with another free toss, Leah Blazkovec scored from the paint for Algoma. The Vikings let a golden opportunity slip away when they missed two shots in the last six seconds and they went into the locker room down 22-20.
“We had a hard time getting anything going on offense,” Colfax coach Joe Doucette said. “We haven’t been pressed like that all year. That took away a lot of things we have been doing all year.”
The third quarter seemed to dictate the rest of the game and it was not in the Vikings’ favor as they scored just three points. Falling behind 27-20, Prochnow put an end to the Wolves’ run with a layup and a Steen free throw was the only other point they came up with. But even with three turnovers and two missed shots in the last three minutes, Colfax was still in the game, down 30-23 heading into the final quarter.
“Algoma defended the lane and we couldn’t get the ball inside,” Doucette said. “They used their lower bodies very well and if they fouled, it was with their legs and hard to see.”
Trying to draw the Algoma defense out, the Vikings began launching three pointers and five different players failed to connect on six attempts. Steen scored on a layup during the scoring drought but with 2:45 left in the game, Algoma had increased their lead to 40-25. Hover dropped in a couple of free throws, Doucette drove through the lane for a bucket and the final point for the Vikings came on a free throw by sophomore Karina Wait, which happened to be her first point at the varsity level.
Algoma coach Mark Zastrow complimented the Colfax team and coach Doucette in the post game press conference.
“This game was definitely more of a grind than our semi-final game,” he said. “The Colfax team and Joe Doucette are a class act. I think we wore them down in the second half because we have 8-10 players who are all efficient with our full court press. They defended our top scorer (Taylor Schmidt) very well and it forced Kennedy (Blahnik) to step up. We just had more balance and depth than they had,” he added.
Coach Doucette congratulated the Algoma team and his own team.
“Algoma was better than us tonight,” he said. “I give them credit for playing such a solid defense and forcing us into a lot of turnovers. Defensively, we were solid and good enough to beat a great team but offensively we couldn’t hit key shots when we needed them like we have all year. It was tremendously exciting to play in the title game and it was a great place for our seniors to finish playing. They were a team orientated bunch that we can’t replace. We will miss them terribly. We wanted to make our fans proud and I believe we did by playing hard all year,” he concluded.
Steen led the Vikings with 12 points and added seven rebounds with two steals. Doucette led the team in boards with nine. The team began state tournament play shooting 66% from the free throw line but were 9 for 17 for 52% in their final game. Both teams collected 28 rebounds but Colfax turned the ball over 18 times compared to 11 times for the Wolves.
ALGOMA (46) Blahnik 7-3-4-17, Delorit 2-3-4-9, Schmidt 1-5-6-7, M. Ryan 2-1-2-6, A. Dier 2-0-2-4, L. Blazkovec 1-0-0-2, M. Mueller 0-1-2-1
COLFAX (30) Steen 4-4-8-12, Hover 1-2-2-5, Doucette 2-0-3-4, Prochnow 1-2-2-4, Shipman 2-0-0-4, Wait 0-1-2-1
THREE POINTERS: Delorit 2, Hover 1, Ryan 1