After a disappointing loss to Mondovi in last year’s regional tournament, the Colfax girls, playing with several new starters this season, made sure there were no disappointments this year by taking a 39-29 win over Glenwood City in the semi-final game (as the number one seed they had a bye the first round), played Feb. 26 on their home court. They then had to dig deep and come back from a 10 point deficit to beat Eau Claire Regis two days later, again in the confines of their home gym 36-33. It is the third regional championship in the past four years for the Vikings who will travel to Altoona this Thursday to take on Fall Creek.
Although they had defeated the Hilltoppers twice during the regular season, Colfax coach Joe Doucette knew his team could not overlook them since they came into the game with a 16-7 record with a third place finish in the Dunn-St. Croix Conference. The Toppers had plenty of tall, aggressive and athletic players who managed to out-rebound the Vikings for the game but couldn’t get the ball in the hoop which certainly played in the Viking’s favor. Colfax had to work hard against their zone defense to take a 9-6 first quarter lead on a Chey Olson trey and a pair of free throws and deuces from Dannielle Dachel. Colfax fell behind three times however, at 9-8, 10-9 and 12-11 before Dachel stole the ball and dished to Dempsey Fogarty for a layup and a 13-11 lead. They failed to score on three consecutive possessions before Dachel canned a triple to add to the lead but Moriah Kuehndorf hit a short jumper for Glenwood to put the halftime score at 16-14 for the Vikings.
For the first three minutes of the third quarter, neither team had any offensive rhythm as the Vikings turned it over twice and missed a three point attempt while the Toppers flat out missed three bunnies in the paint. Dachel finally scored on a spin around jumper at the 5:00 mark and Fogarty drained a triple for a 21-14 advantage and again Glenwood blew a chance to score when they pulled down three rebounds under the basket and missed three shots. They finally scored on their next possession but Dachel countered with another shot from behind the arc and the Vikings took a 24-16 lead into the final quarter.
Andrea Brantner chose a good time to find her shooting eye as she connected on a short jumper for Colfax and after a Topper deuce to make it 26-18, the Vikings came up with five points on an Olson shot coming off an in-bounds pass and Dachel’s third trey for a 31-18 lead. Sloppy play on the Vikings’ part resulted in two easy buckets for the Toppers, cutting their lead to 31-22.Brantner then found her sweet spot and nailed a pair of treys for a 37-22 advantage which turned out to be rather important as the Vikings turned the ball over four times in the last minute and a half. Glenwood made just one of four free tosses in that stretch to allow the Vikings to keep control of the game.
“We struggled fundamentally in a lot of phases and were fortunate to win,” Doucette said.”We did not shoot well and were out rebounded. We were lucky they missed a lot of shots but that’s tournament basketball, finding a way to win despite not playing your best.”
Dachel finished with a game high 19 points, scoring from all areas of the court including three triples, four of four free throws and three shots in the lane. Brantner added a career high eight points. Colfax was four of eight from the foul line while the Toppers were one of six.
COLFAX (39) Dachel 6-4-4-19, Brantner 3-0-0-8, Olson 3-0-2-7, Fogarty 2-0-0-5
GLENWOOD CITY (29) Kuehndorf 5-0-2-10, R. Klatt 4-0-0-8, M. Kadinger 2-0-0-4, M. Samens 1-1-2-3, M. Peterson 1-0-2-2J. Kopacz 1-0-0-2
THREE POINTERS: Dachel 3, Brantner 2, Olson 1, Fogarty 1
Eau Claire Regis
Colfax had defeated the Ramblers back in January by eight points but Regis sported an 18-5 record, with one of those wins coming over Fall Creek which left the two teams in a tie for the Western Cloverbelt Conference title. Regis also boasts a pair of college recruits including Shae Brey and Haley Gibbons. But for as much as the Vikings struggled offensively early on, their defense kept them in the game again until they started to heat up in the second half.
Olson again jump started the Vikings with a deuce off an in-bounds pass but Regis went up 6-2 on two buckets from Hannah Anderson and a pair of free tosses in between by Gibbons. Dachel scored from the lane on another in-bounds pass from Alexis Rudi but the Vikings were off the mark on five three point attempts which Regis finally took advantage of with another Anderson deuce. The Vikings lost out on two more chances to score with 40 seconds left in the quarter but came up empty on two more shots leaving them down 8-4.
With Fogarty tagging along after Brey like an annoying little sister, Brey was exerting a lot of energy trying to get a shot off. She finally came up with her first point on a free toss to open the second stanza but Rudi was fouled on a three point try and converted two of three freebies. After another three pointer was off the mark from the Vikings, they made matters worse with a turnover, resulting in Brey scoring and adding a free throw for a 12-6 lead. But in a span of 30 seconds, Karina Wait drove through the taller Regis girls for a layup and Dachel followed suit with her own layup to cut the deficit to 12-10. Rudi had a busy 35 seconds as she blocked a shot on one end then drew a foul on the other end. It happened to be the seventh one on Regis and the third on starter Hannah Gibbons with 2:58 left in the half. Rudi dropped in both free tosses to knot the score and 30 seconds later, Dachel repeated her earlier play and drove the lane to put the Vikings up 14-12.Regis scored from under the hoop, Dachel countered on an offensive rebound and the Ramblers finished off the half with four free throws, leaving Colfax down 18-16 at the intermission.
“The first half was very similar to the Glenwood City game,” Doucette said. “We struggled offensively but our defense kept us in the game.”
Things took a turn for the worse for the Vikings as Regis went on an eight point run in the third quarter to pull out to a 26-16 lead with 2:53 left in the stanza. To coin a phrase, the Vikings couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn as they were off the mark on six shots including four attempts from behind the arc in the stretch. Olson finally ended the drought with a shot from close range, Brey missed a pair of free throws on the other end which led to Dachel driving down court for a deuce to close the gap. After Regis misfired again, Dachel pulled down the rebound with four seconds left, started speed dribbling down court with a Rambler defender in her face, and right around the half court line, unleashed the ball towards the hoop. It was nothing but net as the buzzer went off, and just like that, the Vikings were down just 26-23.
The Ramblers may have been a little shell shocked as Rudi canned a three pointer just 15 seconds into the final quarter to knot the score. Colfax stepped up their defense and forced a five second call as Regis tried to get the ball in-bounds, and off the turnover, Dachel calmly buried another triple for a Viking lead. Anderson hit one of two free throws for Regis, but the Ramblers appeared to be a step behind at this point and committed two fouls within a 20 second span. After Doucette called a time out with 5:43 left, Katie Christoffel, the shortest player on the court, drove past Brey on the baseline for her only points of the game with a layup. Anderson countered with two more free tosses but on the Vikings’ next possession, Dachel blew past Brey for another deuce and a 33-29 lead. Brantner, who didn’t score at all in the game but plugged up the middle defensively, fouled out with 4:07 left and Brey took advantage,scoring twice in the paint to tie it up again. After Colfax missed another three point shot, Fogarty, who also hadn’t scored due to the fact she was chasing Brey around, drew the fifth foul on Hannah Gibbons, then knocked down two free throws.
The teams traded air balls on three point attempts before Christoffel came up with a steal and after the Ramblers committed their seventh foul with 1:11 to go, Colfax could have put the game away from the foul line but three different players failed to convert and in between those misses, Regis was off the mark from long range. Fogarty drew the Ramblers tenth foul and made the second of two free tosses for a three point lead with 27 seconds left and the Ramblers came up empty on two more shots. But when two more free throws missed the mark for Colfax, Regis had a chance for a final shot with 2.3 seconds left. Luckily for Colfax, it was way off and the Viking players, coaches and fans were finally allowed to exhale.
“It looked pretty bleak for us early in the second half and we were close to being knocked out,” Doucette said.”But our seniors (Chey, Dannielle, Alexis) all hit big shots to keep us in the game. We held a very tall and powerful team to just 33 points with Dempsey doing a great job on Brey. I’m really proud of our ability to hang in there and not give up against a talented team like Regis,” he added.
Dachel led both teams in the scoring department with 18 points including two triples. Fogarty who gave up a good six inches to Brey, held her to 12 points which is four under her average. The Vikings were just seven for 16 at the charity stripe while Regis was 11 for 16 and did not hit a three point shot all game.
COLFAX (36) Dachel 8-0-4-18, Rudi 1-4-5-7, Olson 2-0-2-4, Fogarty 0-3-4-3,Christoffel 1-0-0-2, Wait 1-0-1-2
REGIS (33) Brey 4-4-7-12, Anderson 4-3-4-11, Haley Gibbons 2-4-4-8, A. Darge 1-0-1-2
THREE POINTERS: Dachel 2, Rudi 1