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Basketball: Girls fall in regional final

River Falls sophomore Kylie Strop (10) drives past a New Richmond defender for two of her game-high 32 points in the Wildcat girls basketball team's 65-56 victory over the Tigers in the first round of the WIAA regional tournament Tuesday, Feb. 20, in River Falls. Dave Newman / RiverTown Multimedia 1 / 2
River Falls Maddi Kealy (20) and Abby Doerre (24) pressure New Richmond's Maya Greenquist (12) in the Wildcat girls basketball team's 65-56 victory over the Tigers in the first round of the WIAA regional tournament Tuesday, Feb. 20, in River Falls. Dave Newman / RiverTown Multimedia 2 / 2

After defeating New Richmond for the second time in three days, 65-56, in a WIAA Division 2 regional quarterfinal Tuesday, Feb. 20, the Wildcat girls basketball team saw its season come to an end with a 69-53 loss to top-seeded Onalaska Friday, Feb. 23, in Onalaska.

Wildcat head coach Ian Sticht said it was strange seeing the Tigers for the second time in three days last Tuesday on the Cats' home court.

"The game before neither team really showed anything and we were not able to practice the night before because of the weather," he said. "We had a walkthrough practice Sunday night, but it took us awhile to adjust during the game."

Sticht said New Richmond came out in a 3-2 zone, something the Wildcats hadn't seen three nights earlier in New Richmond, and it took awhile for the Cats to figure it out. River Falls used the hot hand of sophomore Kylie Strop to build a six-point lead, 33-27, at the break before pulling away in the second half.

"We didn't shoot the ball very well," Sticht said. "But we did do a good job of attacking from the inside and were able to create some good looks."

Strop finished with 32 points to lead all scorers while adding nine rebounds, three assists and three steals to her stat line. Sophomore Abby Doerre contributed 15 points, nine rebounds and three assists and classmate Maddi Kealy had 10 points and nine rebounds and junior Bailey Reardon had nine rebounds and three blocked shots as the Wildcats outrebounded the Tigers, 42-28.

Friday night at top seed and sixth-ranked Onalaska, the Hilltoppers hit their first six shots of the game and led by 16 at the break, 45-29 before the Wildcats matched the Hilltoppers 24-24 in the second half.

"I was really proud of how we played in this game against a really good team," Sticht said. "They put more pressure on us then any team all year, and we were able to handle it and they ended up taking their full court pressure off, which I haven't seen them do all season. We just didn't shoot the ball really well and put ourselves in a hole early."

Strop had 28 points in the loss and Reardon added 10 points, nine rebounds and two blocks while Kealy had seven points, ten rebounds and three steals.

"We had some great opportunities to start the second half with some layups," Sticht said. "We just couldn't finish and were never able to close the gap."

Sticht said it was tough watching seniors Kiera LaCroix, Ema Pupungatoa and Danielle Miller play their final games.

"It is always hard when you lose that last game and the seniors know their high school basketball careers are over," he said. "I really think that is the worst part of coaching. But I was really proud of this team all year for continuing to battle and compete, even when things didn't go our way."

The Wildcats finished the season with a record of 8-16. Onalaska improved to 20-3 before going on to defeat fourth-seeded Holmen, 57-40, in Saturday's regional.

Bob Burrows
Bob Burrows has been sports editor at the River Falls Journal since 1996 and at the Hudson Star-Observer since 2009. Prior to joining the Journal, Burrows served as sports editor with Ledger Publications in Balsam Lake, Wis. A native of Bayonne, N.J. and a U.S. Navy veteran, Burrows attended Marquette University before completing his studies at UW-River Falls in 1992.
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