Basketball

North caps unbeaten season with first title

ASHWAUBENON – You can call them history makers now.

Appleton North players celebrate their victory against De Pere in the WIAA Division 1 girls’ basketball state championship game Saturday at the Resch Center in Ashwaubenon. It is the first state title for North, which finished the season undefeated.

Appleton North players celebrate their victory against De Pere in the WIAA Division 1 girls’ basketball state championship game Saturday at the Resch Center in Ashwaubenon. It is the first state title for North, which finished the season undefeated.

The Appleton North girls’ basketball team fended off a scrappy De Pere team to record a 49-34 victory over De Pere in Saturday night’s WIAA Division 1 state championship game at the Resch Center.

A 20-4 run midway through the second half helped the Lighting pull away and get the victory.

It was the first WIAA state title for the Lightning and for the city of Appleton in girls’ basketball and it came thanks to a talented group of players who showed toughness and resiliency throughout the undefeated season.

“It’s such an indescribable feeling,” North senior Callie Pohlman said. “Growing up, you go to the state tournament. I always went with my mom. I skipped school. I would go watch and I never thought that I would be there one day. Now we’re here and we won and it’s crazy. It’s amazing. It’s such a blessing.”

The Lightning (28-0) entered the season as favorites to win the state title after last season’s state semifinal loss to Verona. North was the consensus No. 1-ranked team in the state by the Associated Press and wissports.net polls.

Appleton North had an incredible tournament run, culminating in a big 75-52 victory over No. 2-ranked Milwaukee King in Friday’s semifinal and the blowout of De Pere on Saturday.

De Pere (25-3) played tough throughout the first half and well into the second. The Redbirds defense, led by Olivia DeCleene, had them in contention and a 3-pointer from Anna Boyd tied the game at 27-27 in the second half, but that’s when North began to make its move.

A 3-pointer from Kalen Klitzke and a pair of baskets from Sydney Levy gave the Lightning a 36-29 lead with nine minutes left. DeCleene would leave in the second half with a leg injury and her absence was felt by the Redbirds.

From there the Lightning played keep away and scored on layups from Pohlman and Kari Brekke. The Lightning finished 17-of-36 from the field (47.2 percent).

Paige Schabo, a sophomore, was also critical for the Lightning, scoring 16 points and hauling down seven rebounds. Brekke added 13 points and also had four assists.

“It’s pretty incredible,” Brekke said of the title. “I’m more or less speechless right now.”

Pohlman added nine points and her tough defense and on-court awareness personified the Lightning team as a whole.

Rachel Kerkhoff led De Pere with 11 points.

The teams battled through a first half fraught with turnovers and disjointed play. The teams combined for 16 turnovers and neither team looked comfortable on offense.

North’s defense allowed just 14 points in the second half and De Pere shot just 12-of-41 for the game (29.3 percent).

A pair of 3-pointers from Kari Brekke late helped Appleton North take a 20-16 lead into the half.

The Lightning graduates only two seniors, Pohlman and Kate Lukashewich.

De Pere…

…16

18

— 34

Appleton North…

…20

29

— 49

De Pere: Nies 2, Schneider 3, DeCleene 2, Miller 7, Boyd 6, Cerrato 3, Kerkhoff 11. Totals 12 5-6 34. Three-pointers: Miller, Boyd 2, Cerrato, Kerkhoff. Fouls: 18.

Appleton North: Klitzke 3, Schabo 16, Brekke 13, Pohlman 9, Levy 6, VanHandel 2. Totals 17 11-17 49. Three-pointers: Klitzke, Schabo, Brekke 2. Fouls: 11.

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

Title rally

There will be a celebration rally for the Appleton North girls’ basketball team today at 4 p.m. in the commons at North High School. The event is open to the public.