Lady Devils avenge only loss
By Scott A. Kolb
Revenge was on the agenda for the Riverland women Wednesday night in the second meeting of the season with Western Wisconsin Technical College.
The only loss of the season for the Lady Blue Devils of Riverland came against the WWTC Cavaliers late last month in La Crosse, Wis. The rematch was a much different story as the Lady Devils remained perfect on their home floor with a 75-59 win.
Last time, Becky Sobota of WWTC personally shredded the Riverland defense with 28 points and 27 rebounds. In response, Riverland coach Suzy Hebrink deployed the box-in-one defense.
Tracee Crowley became a shadow of Sobota, and the harassing style of defense had the desired effect. The big scorer for WWTC had only five points in the first half and Riverland pulled away.
"We were not going to let her (Sobota) do that to us again," coach Hebrink said. "Tracee did a great job and I think we frustrated her, especially in the first half. The girls really wanted this game, and we got our revenge."
Initially, the Lady Devils looked little shaky and fell behind 5-0 in the opening four minutes of the game. Sensing the outside shooters on her team needed a nudge, Riverland center Brooke Monson canned a three-pointer to get the offense started.
This was merely a sign of things to come. The Lady Devils let it fly from beyond the arc, and they made a dozen treys on the night. Anna Hebrink followed Monson’s long ball with another three and Riverland had it first lead with five minutes gone.
After a basket by the visitors gave them a 7-6 advantage, the home team scored seven straight points to take the lead for good. Hebrink hit another trey, Crowley scored and then grabbed a steal off the inbounds. She hit Becca Swalla streaking in stride to the hoop and this brought the fans to their feet.
Monson had a big first half with 16 points, but the Lady Devils couldn’t quite break it open. Lizzie Gunter came off the Riverland bench and bombed in a trey, then hit a couple of free throws. WWTC followed with successive steals and cut it to 25-23 with six minutes left in the half.
Gunter had a strong first half and was one of four players in double figures for the Lady Devils. She ignited a decisive 9-2 run over the next three minutes and Riverland took the momentum into halftime.
The Cavaliers were on the ropes and the long range gunners for the Lady Devils would finish them off in the opening minutes of the second half. Swalla and Ali Mackey both found their shooting touch and began burying treys.
Swalla started the fun with a three-pointer in the opening minute of the second half. Swalla had a trio of treys in the second half and this was the impetus for an incredible 18-1 run in just over seven minutes to blow the game open.
"We played terrible the last time against this team, and we just wanted to take it to them," Swalla said. "Tracee worked her butt off playing tough defense, and it felt unbelievably good to shut her (Sobota) down. Coach got us fired up at halftime, and we came out ready to kill in the second half."
WWTC answered the initial long ball from Swalla with a free throw to cut the deficit back to 10 points, but it would get no closer. The Riverland women scored the next 15 points and the rout was on.
Emboldened by the success of her backcourt partner, Mackey decided to get in on the fun from beyond the arc. She canned back-to-back treys and the excitement began to build. Swalla followed with another three-pointer and the lead was hovering near 20 just four minutes into the second half.
Monson kept the run going with her only basket of the second half and Crowley added a free throw, but the show now belonged to Mackey. She didn’t ease up on the trigger and kept firing threes. When the smoke finally cleared, the Lady Cavaliers were beaten. Mackey hit another trey to put the lead at its zenith of 26 points with 11 minutes left to play.
"I was kind of worried in the first half, because I didn’t hit any three-pointers," Mackey said. "Our momentum went up when Becca hit that three to start the second half, and then it was my turn. My confidence took off when I hit that first three, then my teammates did a great job of finding me for the open shots."
Mackey and Swalla’s shooting display put the game on ice. Monson, Gunter, Swalla, and Mackey all finished in double figures for scoring on the night. This was the fifth straight win for the Lady Devils.
Riverland (11-1) is now tied with the 1974-75 team for the best start to a season in school history. A win in Saturday’s game at Decorah, Iowa, against the Luther College junior varsity would give this year’s team a spot in the record books. That’s the last game before the Christmas break.
WESTERN WIS. TECH (59)
Kally Cooprider 0, Lindsay Maus 20, Kristen Nikelatti 6, Breann Pedretti 10, Rachal Rysewyk 4, Becky Sobota 15, Kristin Katula 4.
Tracee Crowley 3, Holly Waltz 2, Ali Mackey 18, Jenyce Mueller 0, Becca Swalla 17, Ashley Lau 0, Anna Hebrink 6, Brooke Monson 18, Carmen Smith 0, Lizzie Gunter 11.
Halftime score — Riverland 39, WWTC 31.
Three-pointers — WWTC 3-6 (Nikelatti 2, Maus 1). Riverland 12-27 (Mackey 5, Swalla 3, Hebrink 2, Monson 1, Gunter 1).
Rebounds — WWTC 28 (Sobota 9); Riverland 39 (Monson 12).
Turnovers — WWTC 22, Riverland 15.
Fouled out — WWTC, Sobota; RIV, Waltz.