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Patience pays off for Wildcat girls

The Wildcat girls basketball team has lost more than its share of close games since opening the season with a win over New Richmond Nov. 23. Last Tuesday at Ellsworth, it finally won one.

The Cats received at least two points from eight different players and showed poise down the stretch to snap a five-game losing streak with a 39-34 win over the Panthers. The win gives the Cats a record of 2-5 heading into this week's holiday tournament in La Crosse.

"Even though we didn't perform as well as we would have liked, we had key performances from a number of different girls and we came through with mental toughness at the end of the game," Wildcat head coach Rita Hurtgen said. "It was great to get a win, and we're excited to head to La Crosse Logan for our Christmas tournament."

The Cats will play at 6 p.m. Tuesday and 1 p.m. Wednesday at La Crosse Logan before returning home to host Rice Lake on Tuesday, Jan. 4, at 7:30 p.m.

Last Tuesday at Ellsworth, senior Brianna Obermueller hit the Cats' only three-pointer of the game to give the Cats a two-point lead with two minutes remaining. That's when Hurtgen said the Cats' mental toughness paid off.

"We played solid defense, and really had patience on offense," she said. "I told the girls that we should only be looking for lay-ups, but still playing aggressive, and they did just that. We showed the best patience in any game so far this season."

The Cats led 10-8 at the end of one quarter and 21-15 at halftime. They took a 31-25 lead into the final eight minutes before Ellsworth went up by one with just over two minutes remaining.

"This definitely shows me that we have grown in our decision making abilities, and are more confident in handling pressure situations at the end of the game," Hurtgen said.

Kelsie Flanscha led the Cats with nine points and 13 rebounds, including eight on the offensive end, while Obermueller tossed in seven points and Morgan Overbye added six points, five rebounds and three steals.

Molly Brendum contributed five points, including three key free throws down the stretch, and six rebounds, while Katie Herum scored four points, Kristin Reihl had three points, four rebounds and four steals, and Sarah Schwalbach added three points and four boards.

Stacey Hamilton had two points, four rebounds and two steals before leaving the game in the second quarter with a concussion.

"Stacey Hamilton was out for the whole second half but Kristen Reihl really stepped up, getting some key steals, rebounds and playing overall just great defense," Hurtgen said. "Katie Herum did an outstanding job handling the ball at the point position and hitting a few key shots in the second half. She was in there playing scrapping for rebounds and played tough, pressure defense the entire game. And Molly Brendum also had a great game defensively."

The Cats had five more rebounds (40-35) and seven less turnovers (25-32) than the Panthers, two things Hurtgen said they would need in order to win.

"We still need to work on taking care of the ball," she said, adding she'd like to see the Cats' number of turnovers closer to 15. "But what it all comes down to is mental toughness and playing to win the game - which we did - as a team. Everybody played and every second on the floor - as well as the positive support when girls were on the bench - was critical throughout the game."