Basketball

Appleton North wins big to return to state

SCHOFIELD – When you’re undefeated and ranked No. 1 in the state, you can either run from the expectations or embrace them.

The Appleton North girls’ basketball team has done the latter all season, including its latest show of poise and confidence with a decisive 79-52 victory over Chippewa Falls on Saturday in a WIAA Division 1 sectional championship game at D.C. Everest High School.

With the victory, the Lightning (26-0) advances to state for the second consecutive year and will face unbeaten Milwaukee King (25-0) in a semifinal game Friday at 6:35 p.m. at the Resch Center in Ashwaubenon.

“It’s amazing just how much this team has grown this year and this season,” said Callie Pohlman, one of just two seniors on the North roster. “We’ve been playing super well and we’ve really grown. It’s just so exciting to get another opportunity to play at the Resch.”

Sydney Levy led North with 22 points, while Paige Schabo added 17 and Kari Brekke had 13. Pohlman finished with 11.

North, which beat Chippewa Falls 61-44 in the season opener, was even more imposing in Saturday’s victory.

The Cardinals (19-7) led only once in the game, at 7-6 after a 3-pointer by Brooke Rooney with 14:36 remaining in the first half, and it was all Lightning the rest of the way.

Schabo and Levy both scored 12 points in the first half, when Chippewa Falls had no solution to North’s full-court pressure. Led by Brekke, North’s defense forced eight turnovers in the first 11 minutes that led to numerous easy baskets in transition.

North led by 20 at halftime at 44-24, was never threatened in the second half and was able to start looking ahead to the state semifinal game by the time the final seconds ticked off the D.C. Everest clock.

“We’re definitely excited to be there,” Pohlman said. “Last year we were kind of just happy to get there, but we definitely have some unfinished business. We’re super excited for whoever we get to play. It’s another week of basketball, so we’re excited.”

North lost to eventual state champion Verona 69-41 in last year’s state semifinals at the Resch Center, but Lightning coach Joe Russom says this year’s team — including himself — is better prepared.

“The reality is there were a lot of things preparation-wise I screwed up last year,” Russom said. “You just don’t know until you get there. And even our kids, we spent too much time lollygagging around Green Bay. This year we’re all set. We got our gyms booked already for college courts. All that stuff. So that’s a big difference.”

Being prepared is one thing, but having enough confidence to enjoy having a target on your back is another and this North squad is reveling in the lofty expectations.

“They really do relish it,” Russom said. “For us, we just keep it simple. We really just look at what’s in front of us and say this is what we need to do based on who we are to be successful.”

As much as the sectional championship means, getting another chance to play at the state tournament is exactly what the Lightning has wanted since the season started in November.

“It feels so nice to go back to state,” Schabo said. “We want to prove them all wrong that we can get to the championship game.”

Appleton North

44

35

— 79

Chippewa Falls

24

28

— 52

Appleton North: Brekke 13, Sieg 2, Laux 7, Pohlman 11, Beecher 4, Klitzke 3, Levy 22, Schabo 17. Totals 23 28-46 79. Three-pointers: Levy 3, Brekke, Beecher. Fouls: 23.

Chippewa Falls: Zenner 5, Rooney 5, Givens 11, Meinen 9, Sillman 2, L. Hanley 11, McMillan 3, Erickson 4, Houle 1, Roshell 1. Totals 15 19-28 52. Three-pointers: Givens 2, Rooney. Fouls: 29.

Mike Sherry: 920-996-7244 or msherry@postcrescent.com; on Twitter @MikeSherry14

WIAA State Tournament

At Resch Center, Ashwaubenon

Division 1

Friday’s semifinals

6:35 p.m.: Appleton North (26-0) vs. Milwaukee King (25-0), followed by De Pere (24-2) vs. Middleton (23-3)

Saturday’s championship

Semifinal winners, 8:15 p.m.

Division 2

Friday’s semifinals

1:35 p.m.: Hortonville (20-5) vs. Cudahy (19-7), followed by Beaver Dam (26-0) vs. Monroe (21-3)

Saturday’s championship

Semifinal winners, 6:35 p.m.

Division 3

Thursday’s semifinals

1:35 p.m.: Somerset-Bloomer winner vs. Martin Luther (25-1), followed by Wrightstown (23-3) vs. Edgewood (23-3)

Saturday’s championship

Semifinal winners, 2:30 p.m.

Division 4

Thursday’s semifinals

6:35 p.m.: Durand (23-3) vs. Howards Grove (25-1), followed by Shiocton (16-8) vs. Aquinas (26-0)

Saturday’s championship

Semifinal winners, 12:45 p.m.

Division 5

Friday’s semifinals

9:05 a.m.: Clayton (27-0) vs. Milwaukee Academy of Science (22-4), followed by Loyal (23-4) vs. Bangor (24-3)

Saturday’s championship

Semifinal winners, 11:05 a.m.

Basketball

Basketball