By Cara L. Dempski
Joe Doucette gives credit where credit is due.
Especially when it regards a play he did not create, but landed his team in the sectional final matchup for the first time since the 2012-2013 season.
“That (play) was Mr. Dachel’s,” Doucette said to recognize his assistant coach John Dachel. “We just put that in the other day. We went with it, it worked perfect.”
The play in question was an inbounds pass to sophomore Kameri Meredith in the closing seconds of the Vikings’ March 1 WIAA Division 4 sectional semifinal versus Cameron. The ensuing bucket tickled the twine just as the buzzer sounded to give Colfax a 51-49 win over the Comets and a chance to face Melrose-Mindoro two days later at River Falls and earn a state berth.
[emember_protected] The Lady Mustangs’ size, speed and agility proved too much for the Vikings to handle in the March 3 sectional championship contest at River Falls High School.
Playing in front of a near capacity crowd, Melrose-Mindoro, who fell to LaCrosse Aquinas in last year’s sectional semifinal and was not going to be denied a trip to state this time around, dominated Colfax, especially in the second half, en route to a 52-31 victory in Saturday afternoon’s Division 4 girls’ basketball sectional championship game.
The win gave the Mustangs (26-0) a berth in the state tournament to be held this Thursday through Saturday at Green Bay’s Resch Center where they will face Manitowoc Lutheran in an 8:15 p.m. semifinal game this Thursday, March 8.
Colfax ended the year with a 20-6 record and a regional title to go along with runner-up honors in the Dunn-St. Croix and sectional.
Doucette seemed as proud of his kids as he was in awe of the Comets during his post-game comments last Thursday evening.
“We knew Cameron, they’re just tough kids, senior kids,” he said. “(I’m) very proud of our kids, it’s a big win for us. Cameron’s another team, they’ve been in sectionals so many time, and they’ve just got a great program. For us to beat them is a nice win.”
For the first time in five seasons, the Colfax Vikings earned a chance at a state tournament berth after beating Cameron 51-49 at New Richmond March 1 on a last-second, brand-spanking new play to pick up the final two.
According to observers at the game, there were just 1.2 seconds left on the clock when the ball was tossed inbounds to Meredith, who was under the basket and basically had to stretch up, bounce it off the glass and watch it fall through as the horn sounded.
There was a little poetic justice in the play, as the Vikings were in a similar spot just one year ago against Durand and came out of the game on the short end. The moment was made even sweeter when considering the Durand team was smashed by Melrose-Mindoro as Colfax was picking up its win.
Colfax took the tip, but it was the Comets who got on the board first with two, but Meredith opened scoring for the Lady Vikings with a three-point shot to make it 4-3 in favor of Cameron. She tied things up at five a short time later with a field goal, and then Savannah Henricks hit a three to give the Vikings an 8-5 edge.
“She played like she didn’t want to lose tonight,” Doucette said of Meredith. “I couldn’t be happier for her. She’s had a great year.”
Henricks and Meredith would push the Vikings, who played as the home squad in the contest, out to an 11-5 lead before Comet Kiara Hestad bounced an out-side-the-arc shot off the glass for three to cut the score to 11-8. Cameron senior Morgan Warner then regained the lead for her team with another big three at 8:16 to make the score 12-11 in favor of the Comets.
Cameron would move to a 14-11 lead, but Colfax would get back in it after sophomore Rachel Scharlau grabbed a rebound and dropped one in for two, and then tied it up at 17 with 3:13 to play in the first half after Meredith took another inbounds pass and bounced it off the glass.
The two teams traded scoring drives in the final few minutes of the opening half, but Colfax opened up a lead and went into the locker room at halftime leading 26-21.
The game would continue in the same vein for the rest of the night until Meredith’s last-second magic.
The sophomore led the game with her 26-point effort, but Henricks was not too far behind with 18 points of her own.
Doucette definitely noticed their efforts.
“Those two were just great tonight, and we needed every single thing,” he said.
Notably absent from the box score was junior center Emma Hurlburt, who picked up her third foul midway through the first half, and then nabbed a fourth late in the second. The Colfax coach said she is always able to grab rebounds and defend, and he hopes she’ll be able to last longer in the March 3 contest at River Falls.
Alyssa Dachel contributed four points to the Vikings’, Rachel Scharlau spent much of her evening on defense in Hurlburt’s usual inside spot, but added two points, and Morgan Schleusner went one for two from the line.
Cameron’s highest score belonged to Maddy Otto, who earned 14 points in the game.
CAMERON 49, COLFAX 51
Cameron……………21 28 — 49
Colfax……………….26 25 — 51
TEAM STATISTICS (FG-FT-F-T)
Cameron (20-5-13-49) — K. Hestad 2-0-1-5, T. Gerber 2-1-1-5, M. Warner 5-0-2-12, A. Kringle 0-0-1-0, M. Otto 6-1-3-14, Carli Wanink 1-1-3-4, H. Zimmerman 4-0-3-9.
Colfax (18-7-16-51) — A. Dachel 2-0-2-4, M. Schleusner 0-1-3-1, K. Meredith 10-3-1-26, S. Henricks 5-3-3-18, A. Olson 0-0-1-0, R. Scharlau 1-0-2-2, E. Hurlburt 0-0-4-0.
Cameron — K. Hestad 1, M. Otto 1, C. Wanink 1, H. Zimmerman 1; Colfax — K. Meredith 3, S. Henricks 5.
Colfax needed to play its best game of the year if it was going to knock off unbeaten and second-ranked Melrose-Mindoro in Saturday’s sectional championship in River Falls.
And longtime Vikings’ head coach Joe Doucette knew it.
“We were excited to have a chance to play,” said Doucette following the contest.
“But Melrose was clearly the better team tonight, they were better in every phase of the game. We knew we needed our “A” game maybe a little more than our “A” game but they were clearly the better team.”
Defensively, the Mustangs height caused issues all game long for the Vikings’ shooters, many had shots blocked and always challenged.
“We knew it could be a block party and we were going to be invited and they blocked a lot of our shots,” continued Doucette.
“We had known that and we tried to adjust but their size was critical,” said Doucette
Colfax also had trouble slowing Melrose-Mindoro’s up tempo offense led by junior floor general Katie Christopherson, who had eight of her dozen points in the first half that helped the Mustangs to a 23-11 halftime advantage over the Vikings.
“Another thing they did, they shot the ball well, better than we did,” Doucette said.
Nine of Colfax’s first-half points came via triples from Alyssa Dachel (her lone score of the game) and semifinal heroes Kameri Meredith and Savannah Henricks. Meredith also added two free throws.
After Colfax held her scoreless in the first half, the Mustangs’ 6’ 1” sophomore center, Mesa Byom, broke loose in the second half, scoring all 15 of her game-leading points in the final 18 minutes of play.
In the second half, Melrose-Mindoro was able to stretch a 12-point lead to nearly 30 points late in the game.
The Mustangs galloped to a quick 11-3 lead causing Colfax to take a timeout at 12:24 of the opening half. The Vikings lone score in the time frame of nearly six minutes was a 3-point basket by Meredith at 14:50 that made it 4-3.
Following the timeout, Mustangs starter Emily Herzberg, who had a pair of treys, picked up her second foul on a charge and went to the bench for the rest of the half.
Hoping it would be the incentive Colfax needed, Dachel canned a triple.
But three consecutive hoops by Mel-Min’s Christopherson, whose older brother Scott was one of Iowa State’s greatest shooters from 2009-13, had the Mustangs back up 18-6.
Savannah Henricks sank the Vikings third triple of the half and Meredith added two free throws as Colfax trailed by 12, 23-11, at the break.
Initially, things looked up for the Vikings at the start of the second half.
Henricks hit one of two charity tosses and Meredith added a hoop to pull Colfax to within seven points at the 13:51 mark.
“We cut it to seven and we were excited and actually had three or four good looks,” said Doucette. “But we missed and they’d make, we’d miss and they’d make and suddenly it was back to 14 or 15 points. And from there we had given it our best shot and it just wasn’t happening from there.”
The Mustangs, who were still scoreless in the latter half, called for a time out.
That seemed to jump start the Mel-Min offense and Byom in particular.
Coming out of the time out, the Melrose-Mindoro center made her first hoop, then followed it with a pair of free throws, a conventional three-point play, and two more free throws and Mustangs were off and running.
Meredith scored a hoop but missed the free throw to convert her own three-point play as Colfax closed to within 11 points at 9:50.
But a three from Herzberg was followed by another triple off the hands of Calette Lockington put the Mustangs ahead 35-18.
Even a Colfax time out would not slow the Mustangs’ run.
Mel-Min got a pair of hoops from Byom, and scores from Christopherson and Erika Simmons to expand the Mustangs lead out to 46-20.
Henricks bagged four consecutive free throws but Byom would throw back a rebound for her final two and Simmons added a pair of hoops to make it 52-24.
Colfax’s bench came in the contest and scored the Vikings’ final seven points – four free throws by Saville Wilson and a three by Marissa Harmon.
Meredith led the Vikings with 11 and Henricks had eight.
“We gave it our best shot, it wasn’t our “A” game, they were clearly better team tonight”
MELROSE-MINDORO 52, COLFAX 31
Melrose-Mindoro……………….23 29 — 52
Colfax……………………………….11 20 — 31
TEAM STATISTICS (FG-FT-F-T)
Melrose-Mindoro (21-6-17-52) — T. Frey 0-0-3-0, C. Lockington 2-1-4-6, M. Byom 5-5-2-15, K. Christopherson 6-0-1-12, E. Simmons 5-0-3-10, A. Tracey 0-0-2-0, E. Herzberg 3-0-2-9.
Colfax (7-13-14-31) — A. Dachel 1-0-3-3, M. Schleusner 0-0-1-0, K. Meredith 3-4-2-11, S. Henricks 1-5-1-8, A. Olson 0-0-2-0, R. Scharlau 0-0-1-0, E. Hurlburt 1-0-4-2, S. Wilson 0-4-0-4, M. Harmon 1-0-0-3.
Melrose-Mindoro — E. Herzberg 3, C. Lockington 1; Colfax — K. Meredith 1, S. Henricks 1, A. Dachel 1, M. Harmon 1. [/emember_protected]