ALTOONA — Colfax coach Joe Doucette knew his team had a tall task – tall being the key word here – when they faced off against the Fall Creek Crickets in the Division 4 sectional semi-final game played in Altoona March 5. The Crickets boasted a record of 22-2 with their only losses coming from Eau Claire Regis and Cuba City, they were the Western Cloverbelt Conference Champions, and have been ranked as high as number two in the state by several polls this season. They managed to do all that with a roster which included three players all measuring at 5’11.
The Vikings of course were no slouch either, entering the game with a 21-3 record, their seventh straight Dunn-St. Croix Conference Championship under their belts and a huge win over Regis five days earlier. But Colfax relied on their defense and three point shooting all season to keep them in games and in the end, the Crickets’ ability to get to the basket and keep the Vikings away from it, trumped the Vikings’ outside shooting, resulting in a 55-42 loss for Colfax.
“Fall Creek was big, strong and talented,” Doucette said. “They played their “A” game against us and they definitely are one of the best teams in the state.”
Colfax took a 3-2 lead on Dannielle Dachel’s triple and Dempsey Fogarty added a free throw but the Crickets went up 11-4 before Fogarty found Andrea Brantner under the hoop for a deuce. Chey Olson scored on a turn around jumper and Dachel drained another trey, leaving the Vikings down 13-11 at the end of the quarter.
Fall Creek scored in the paint but the Vikings’ Alexis Rudi drained a three pointer to keep the deficit at a point at 15-14 early in the second stanza. Things went downhill from there for Colfax as the Crickets went on a 13 point run which included a pair of free throws, a three point shot and four consecutive buckets in the lane. The Vikings turned the ball over three times in that span and misfired on a couple of shots from long range, allowing Fall Creek to jump ahead 28-14. Dachel stopped the bleeding, drawing the seventh foul of the half on Fall Creek, and connected on two free tosses. But missed opportunities were the story in the next minute as an open layup and a three point shot were both off the mark for Colfax, which Fall Creek took advantage of. Two different players scored under the hoop and after another Dachel free throw, the half ended with Fall Creek holding a commanding 32-17 lead.
“We knew what they were going to do, but they did it much better than we thought,” Doucette said. “They did a good job of pounding it inside, catching it and finishing the shots. We missed a lot of shots ourselves and things just got away from us in the quarter.”
The Crickets doubled up on the score at 34-17 before Olson hit a free toss for Colfax. But remember folks, this is the team that came from 10 points down against Regis in the third quarter less than a week ago by using a suffocating defense and some timely three point shots. The Vikings proceeded to cut the deficit to 10 points in this game at 37-27 on a Fogarty shot from underneath, an Olson triple, a drive by Dachel and another Fogarty deuce in the paint, and after the Crickets scored on a pair of free throws, Ally Heidorn slid under the basket and scored on an offensive rebound for the Vikings. Fall Creek took the ball with 30 seconds left in the half, looking for a final shot, but the Colfax defense did their job and forced a turnover with under two seconds left and the game went into the final quarter with Fall Creek up 39-29.
Dachel canned another trey but every time Colfax scored, the Crickets had an answer and that was either a bucket in the paint or a free throw. Olson managed to draw a foul, the fourth one on Cricket starter Olivia Burghardt, and dropped in a pair of free throws and after Dachel scored in the lane, the deficit was at nine points, 45-36. After a Fall Creek deuce, Karina Wait came up with her first two points of the game for the Vikings with a drive in the lane with 4:00 left. Two three point attempts by Colfax missed the hoop again but Wait drew a foul on a rebound and canned two free tosses to cut the Crickets lead to nine with 2:27 left in the game. Two more Dachel freebies after a Cricket bucket kept the deficit at nine points but the Vikings picked up their seventh foul at this point. Four free throws by two different Fall Creek players sandwiched around a pair of triple attempts that missed the mark again by Colfax increased the lead to 13, and coach Doucette, who doesn’t give up easily, cleared his bench with less than a minute left.
“I was proud of how we came back in the second half,” he said. “We were just a shot or two away from keeping it interesting. But every time Fall Creek needed a basket or a free throw, they came up with one. They were the better team tonight and It was a tough way to end things for our five seniors,’ he added.
Dachel was once again the leading scorer for the Vikings with 18 points with three treys and five of nine free throws. Tatum Mayenschein, one of those 5’11 players, scored 20 for Fall Creek after averaging just under 12 a game. Fogarty did her defensive job as she has all year, covering the opponent’s top scorer each game, and held Jonalyn Wittwer, another 5’11 player which makes her six inches taller than Fogarty, to just two points, ten under her average. Colfax was five of nine from the charity stripe and Fall Creek finished 15 of 17 with Mayenschein going eight for eight.
FALL CREEK (55) Mayenschein 6-8-8-20. W. Folkers 4-5-6-14, Burghardt 6-0-1-12, S. Hohlfelder 2-2-2-7, Wittwer 1-0-0-2
COLFAX (42) Dachel 5-5-9-18, Olson 2-3-4-8, Rudi 1-0-0-3, Wait 1-2-2-4, Heidorn 1-0-2-2, Brantner 1-0-0-2
THREE POINTERS: Dachel 3, Rudi 1, Olson 1, Hohlfelder 1, Folkers 1