Appleton North one win away from state title

Appleton North one win away from state title

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Appleton North one win away from state title

ASHWAUBENON – Joe Russom’s massive bear hug enveloped Callie Pohlman, lifting her off the Resch Center court Friday night.

It was a celebration, if only momentarily, of a superlative performance by the Appleton North girls’ basketball team in its eye-opening 75-52 rout of Milwaukee King in a WIAA Division 1 state semifinal.

The top-ranked Lightning (27-0) will play De Pere (25-2) in today’s championship game at 8:15 p.m. Appleton North is vying for the city’s first WIAA state girls’ basketball title and Pohlman knows there is still work to be done.

Appleton North’s Sydney Levy, rear, battles for a rebound against Annaly Garcia of Milwaukee King on Friday in Ashwaubenon.

Appleton North’s Sydney Levy, rear, battles for a rebound against Annaly Garcia of Milwaukee King on Friday in Ashwaubenon.

“Obviously, it’s a state championship game so adrenaline is going to be pumping and everyone is going to be nervous,” she said. “But we talk about this a lot. In high-pressure games, whoever is the first team to relax is usually the first team to come out on top.”

That was the case in North’s victory over the second-ranked Generals, who entered 25-0 and ranked No. 20 in the country by USA TODAY.

RELATED:Appleton North channels ‘Miracle on Ice’ in win

While the first half was tight, North’s amazing depth and its overall athleticism began to wear down King.

At the forefront were North guards Pohlman, Sydney Levy and Kari Brekke. The trio ran the floor with precision and never allowed the King guards to dictate tempo.

North went to work to start the second half, with Brekke burying a 3-pointer and Levy getting a steal and layup in transition.

The Lighting’s ability to avoid turnovers and convert from the floor — North shot 60 percent in the second half — put King in the rare position of having to play catch-up throughout an entire half.

“I thought they played with a lot of discipline and were tough as a team,” King coach Craig Marchut said. “Everything was precise and everything was well thought out. And they reacted to everything we threw at them.

“(Shooting) 60 percent? That’s pretty darn good.”

Russom said he made it a point to loosen up the atmosphere at the half.

“I think we settled down,” he said. “We came in the halftime and I kind of joked a little bit and they laughed and (the mood) lightened up.”

Sydnee Roby’s layup with 10:46 remaining pulled King to within 48-45, but that’s as close as the Generals would get as North pulled away. Paige Schabo had a 3-pointer and North hit 17-of-27 from the free throw line to ice the game.

Roby, King’s outstanding 6-foot-4 sophomore, finished with 17 points, 12 rebounds and six blocked shots, but also fouled out with 2:56 left.

North’s balance on offense was evident. The Lightning had five players in double digits: Levy (19), Brekke (14), Schabo (12), Pohlman (12) and Anna Laux (10).

Laux was especially critical in the first half, when she made two 3-pointers.

“She’s a great player,” Levy said. “I think our depth helps a lot. Especially knowing that the next kid up can produce as much as whoever comes out. I think that makes a big difference.”

Russom pointed to his team’s mentality this season as compared to last season, when the Lightning fell to Verona 69-41 in a state semifinal.

“They’ve really grown up,” he said. “And this week, we really worked those pressure situations and we really had our kids go after our kids that were going to finish that game and you could see they were prepared.”

Appleton North…

…32

43

— 75

Milwaukee King…

…31

21

— 52

Appleton North: Klitzke 6, Schabo 12, Brekke 14, Pohlman 12, Levy 19, Laux 10, White 2. Totals 24 23-38 75. Three-pointers: Laux 2, Brekke, Schabo. Fouls: 15.

Milwaukee King: Patterson 11, Roby 17, Garcia 3, Morehouse 11, Clark 4, Herron 2, Blade 2, Townsend 2. Totals 20 9-16 52. Three-pointers: Morehouse 2, Garcia. Fouls: 26.

Ricardo Arguello: 920-993-7191 or rarguello@postcrescent.com; on Twitter @PCRicardo

Appleton North’s (from left) Emma Erickson, Kalen Klitzke, Kari Brekke and Callie Pohlman cheer in the final seconds Friday as the Lightning beat Milwaukee King in a WIAA Division 1 state semifinal game at the Resch Center in Ashwaubenon. See more photos from the game at postcrescent.com.

Appleton North’s (from left) Emma Erickson, Kalen Klitzke, Kari Brekke and Callie Pohlman cheer in the final seconds Friday as the Lightning beat Milwaukee King in a WIAA Division 1 state semifinal game at the Resch Center in Ashwaubenon. See more photos from the game at postcrescent.com.

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