ASHWAUBENON – For the first time ever, the City of Appleton can claim a WIAA girls basketball championship as its own.
Appleton North defeated De Pere 49-34 on Saturday to secure the Division 1 state title at the Resch Center.
North, East, West, Xavier and Fox Valley Lutheran have combined for 13 WIAA state tournament appearances, but the Lightning earned the first golden ball on the program’s fourth trip.
De Pere went scoreless for the opening five minutes, and trailed 8-0 to begin the game, but regrouped and tied the game at 14-14 before North rattled off the final four points of the half.
But scoring never came easy for the Redbirds, who shot just 29.3 percent on the night, including 5-of-23 on 3-pointers (21.7 percent).
North (28-0) initially had its own issues putting the ball in the net. Junior Sydney Levy, who averages 18.9 points per game, was held scoreless until the middle of the second half. But UW-Milwaukee recruit sparked a 7-2 run with an assist on a 3-pointer, then two consecutive field goals to give the Lightning a 36-29 lead. She finished with six points.
Sophomore Paige Schabo and junior Kari Brekke broke through De Pere’s tough defense and combined for 29 points on 10-of-15 shooting. Schabo led North with 16 points and seven rebounds.
De Pere (25-3) was hampered when its floor leader, senior Olivia DeCleene injured her right leg late in the first half and didn’t return.
Her replacement, sophomore Rachel Kerkhoff, provided her team a much-needed burst of energy. She led the team with 11 points off the bench.
Liz Nies had just two points but a game-high 10 rebounds for the Redbirds.
But whenever the Redbirds made a run, the Lightning would make one of its own to hold them at bay. Callie Pohlman hit a jumper with 5:04 left to give North a 42-31 lead, and the team led by double digits the rest of the way.
Check back later for reaction and more from the game!