Wildcats fend off Knights 67-63

NORTHROP – Southwest Star Concept junior center Courtney Place scored 18 of her game-high 39 points to help the Wildcats take a 26-21 first-half lead over the Martin Luther Knights on Monday night in Northrop.

In the second half, full-court pressure allowed the Knights to get within a basket of the lead, but Place and her teammates were able to hold off the home team for a 67-63 nonconference victory.

“In our first game, we played a lot the same way; we came out slow and didn’t play well for most of the game and then in the final 10 minutes we turn it on,” said Martin Luther head coach Leslie Wokasch. “Now if we could just bottle that and play that way for the whole game, we’d be set.”

Martin Luther senior Amber Schulz helped keep the Knights in the game in the first half, scoring seven of her 17 points.

In the second half, the speedy point guards handled the top of the Knights’ full-court pressure, and combined for 36 of the home team’s 63 points in the game.

Place, however, kept finding the basket for the Wildcats, scoring six of her last 10 points on free throws.

Despite trailing a majority of the game, Martin Luther was within striking distance, making it 45-43 on a Kayley Shoen reverse layup with just under five minutes to play.

Autumn Hinkeldey then brought the ball up for the Wildcats, finding Place under the net for a shot at a layup. A foul by Schulz put Place at the line, where she converted both free throws to put her squad ahead 47-43.

“The pressure that we put on them in the second half I think really helped us,” Wokasch said. “I wasn’t sure our conditioning was good enough yet to handle it, but they did and they caused the other team problems.”

The change in defense also helped keep Place off the 3-point line, where she made four of 10 shots, including three in the first half.

“At halftime, Hunter (Payne) came in and asked if she could just guard Place. And I thought sure, let’s try it,” Wokasch said. “She did a great job on her in the second half and it made a huge difference.”

Shoen snagged three steals from the top of the Knights’ defense in the second half, turning them into layups for 14 of her team-leading 23 points. The Knight forward picked Alaina Klingenberg’s pocket and flipped a layup into the net, before yanking the ball out of Wildcat Kailey Wendland’s arms and bouncing a pass to Payne to make it 61-57 in the final two minutes.

On the next Wildcat possession, Hinkeldey found Sonja Peter on the left side of the lane and flipped in a shot to make it 63-57.

Wendland, who scored 14 points for the Wildcats, also added a fadeaway to make it 65-61 in the Wildcats’ favor.

A foul by Hinkeldey with 15 seconds remaining, with the score 67-61, gave the Knights one last chance to narrow the score. Hinkeldey fouled Alexis Brummond, who had 12 points in the game for the Knights, and the freshman swished both to make it a four-point game.

Payne then stole the inbounds pass and sent the ball to Savannah Krenz, who fired up a 3 with a last-second shot, but it just missed the basket.

Kristi Oberdieck scored eight points for the Knights and grabbed 10 boards, while Schulz and Payne each snagged eight rebounds.

Martin Luther (0-2) travels to play Janesville-Waldorf-Pemberton in a conference game at 7:30 p.m. Thursday in Janesville.

Southwest Star Concept (1-1) travels for a 7:30 p.m. game in Ellsworth on Thursday.