Freedom girls tip Fox Valley Lutheran

Freedom girls tip Fox Valley Lutheran

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Freedom girls tip Fox Valley Lutheran

APPLETON – Jada Helms looked everything like a Pro Bowl NFL cornerback for a few crucial seconds Friday.

The 5-foot-7 Freedom junior anticipated an errant pass from a double team near midcourt in the final minutes, intercepted the ball and converted on a layup in transition to help give the Irish an eventual 35-34 North Eastern Conference girls’ basketball victory over Fox Valley Lutheran.

“Our coach called extended pressure, so my teammates really put me in that position to get that steal,” Helms said. “I kind of read it and it felt really good (to convert). It was a great team effort. We give credit to FVL. They’re a great program. But we focused at the end and we stuck together. It was a big team victory for us.”

Helm’s steal and transition bucket was one of two critical turnovers by Fox Valley Lutheran in the closing minutes. Still, the Foxes were able to get off one final shot off with 1.1 seconds left.

Samantha Birling tossed a long pass past midcourt that Jenna Bruss was able to catch, take a few steps toward the basket and put up a shot which failed to hit the mark.

“That’s as much as you can hope for at that point,” FVL coach Dave Wenzel said. “That would have been pretty miraculous to get us the win. But that didn’t cost us the game. There were a lot of little things that we didn’t do as well as we could have earlier than that.

“That turnover, that was on me. I should have called a timeout and had us set up again. I’ll see that one in my sleep. I blame myself for that one.”

The Foxes battled back from a 26-16 deficit, sparked by a pair of 3-pointers from Bruss to get within striking distance.

Brenna Krueger’s two free throws gave FVL a 34-33 lead with 3:45 left before Helms’ defensive play gave the Irish the lead it would never relinquish.

Freedom (16-2, 13-1 NEC) struggled from the free throw line, converting on just 9-of-24 attempts, and missed two free throws in the closing minute that would have givin it a bit more breathing room.

“It was a little messy there at the end, but I thought the girls handled the last two or three minutes pretty well,” Freedom coach Mike Vander Loop said. “The lead changed twice after FVL took that lead and each time we were able to come back and get that lead. And it comes down to that last possession defensively.

“Bruss with the ball on top and looking to make the shot, the ball in her hands, that’s a concern. She’s ceratinly one of the top players in the area. I told the girls FVL played a great game and we just made one more play than they did.”

Makenna Haase had 14 points and 13 rebounds to lead the Irish, ranked No. 5 in Division 3 in the latest Associated Press poll. Freshmen Taylor Haase and Cameron Evers combined for 13 points for the Irish.

Bruss had 15 points for FVL (9-7, 7-6), which played much better Friday than it had in a 59-26 loss to the Irish on Dec. 9.

“We’re not the same team that we were back in December and January,” Wenzel said. “As much as this one hurts, the girls know they battled the top team in the conference and they know they could have walked off with a win. Freedom just did a few more little things than we did.”

Freedom

20

15

— 35

Fox Valley Lutheran

15

19

— 34

Freedom: Garrett 4, Helms 4, M. Haase 14, T. Haase 7, Evers 6. Totals 13 9-21 35. Three-pointers: None. Fouls: 18.

Fox Valley Lutheran: Krueger 7, Birling 2, Bruss 15, Duciaume 6, Brukardt 1, A. Charron 2, J. Charron 1. Totals 8 13-25 34. Three-pointers: Krueger, Bruss 3, Duciaume. Fouls: 19.

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

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