ASHWAUBENON – The De Pere girls basketball team didn’t have to go far on Friday to make it to the Resch Center.
But the Redbirds did have to go the distance against Middleton.
De Pere pulled out a 49-47 overtime victory in a WIAA Division 1 state semifinal game to extend its winning streak to 17 games and keep its state title hopes alive.
The Redbirds (25-2) advance to face undefeated Appleton North (27-0) in the D1 state championship at 8:15 p.m. on Saturday.
After spotting the Cardinals (23-4) a four-point lead in overtime, De Pere clamped down defensively and went 8-for-10 from the free-throw line to punch its ticket to the state championship game for the first time since it won the title in 2012.
Following a De Pere turnover on an inbounds after a Middleton free throw, the Cardinals had the opportunity to win the game at the end of regulation but missed both field-goal attempts.
Middleton also had the chance to tie or win the game in overtime on the last possession, but Halle White’s shot in the lane over De Pere senior Liz Nies didn’t fall in a game that saw five ties and seven lead changes.
“When the buzzer rang, and we won by those two points, it was a feeling that I haven’t been through before,” said De Pere senior Olivia DeCleene, who scored 11 points.
Junior Annie Schneider had a team-high 13 points and seven rebounds for the Redbirds. Nies added eight points, including four straight from the free-throw line in overtime to tie the game.
De Pere held Middleton to a season-low point total. The Cardinals shot 30.2 percent from the field (16-for-53) and went over 9 minutes in the first half without a field goal as the Redbirds took a 20-13 halftime lead.
“We’ve been a team all year long that takes a ton of pride in our defense,” De Pere coach Jeremy Boileau said, “and understood that if we wanted to win the game today we had to bring a ton of defensive effort because they had multiple girls that can score the basketball.”
Bria Lemirande finished 13 points, while Alyssa Lemirande added 10 to lead Middleton, which took the lead late in the game thanks to a couple of untimely turnovers by De Pere.
The Redbirds didn’t get off to the start they wanted to due to committing turnovers on six of its first eight possessions. De Pere finished with 15 turnovers, while Middleton committed 16.
DeCleene and senior Lizzie Miller both finished the game with four fouls as well.
“It took us a little while to settle in,” said Boileau, whose team shot 31.9 percent from the field (15-for-47). “Once we found our rhythm and settled down from the excitement, we found some great opportunities to score the basketball and just took a little bit of time to get that confidence going.”
De Pere will look to keep its defensive momentum going when it goes after its fourth state title on Saturday.
“It’s something we’ve been dreaming of since we’ve been little kids,” said Miller, who had six points and seven rebounds. “I know for myself, Olivia and the other seniors, we watched the team go to state in 2012 and even the 2005 team. It’s just been a goal of ours ever since and to actually have it come true is pretty incredible.”
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De Pere 20 21 8 – 49
Middleton 13 28 6 – 47
DE PERE: Hohol 2, Nies 8, Schneider 13, DeCleene 11, Miller 6, Boyd 4, Kerkhoff 5. 3-pt: Schneider 1, DeCleene 1. FT: 17-24. F: 18.
MIDDLETON: C. Lemirande 8, White 6, A. Lemirande 10, Thomas 8, B. Lemirande 13, Staples 2. 3-pt: Thomas 2. FT: 13-23. F: 20.