The Fox Valley Association contest between conference leading Kimberly Papermakers and second place Oshkosh North Spartans Friday night was a battle from start to finish.
After a slow start, the No. 7 ranked Papermakers pulled away from the game Spartans, posting a 50-42 victory and staying undefeated on the season.
Oshkosh North matched the Papermakers point for point in the first quarter, neutralizing conference scoring leader Frankie Wurtz in the process, holding the sophomore guard to just one 3-point basket in the stanza. Wurtz did pull down five rebounds in the first half, and finished the half with six points.
The main advantage the Papermakers had in the first half that allowed to them to pull away and post an eight point halftime lead was turn-overs. Head coach Troy Cullen’s charges forced the Spartans into 12 first half turn-overs.
“It is something we stress, is defense. I am going to give North credit; they never went away,” said Kimberly head coach Troy Cullen. “We had at 15 (point lead) at different times in the fourth quarter, and in the second half, and they didn’t go away. That is a credit to them.”
The Spartans got a big first half from Nicole Herkert. The 5-foot-10 senior scored eight points for Oshkosh North in the half, accounting for more than half of the Spartans points in the first half, keeping the Spartans close.
“Against a good team like Kimberly that plays good pressure defense, you really have to own your space, so to speak,” said Spartan head coach Rachel Biertzer. “You have to be confident with the basketball and we made some mental errors. Those are things we have to correct, but those things are on us. That sense of urgency we played with in the fourth quarter, we need to play with that same sense in the first quarter.”
The second half belong to Wurtz and the Papermakers. The sophomore scored 15 of her game high 21 points in the second half, pushing the Kimberly lead to has many as 15 on a couple of occasions before the Spartans made one last attempt to get back in the game.
With 3:45 left and Kimberly with a 14 point lead, Oshkosh went on a 7-0 run to cut the lead in half. The Spartans were aided by two Papermaker turnovers and a technical foul called against the Kimberly bench on the run. It would be as close as the Spartans would get in the second half.
Brooklyn Schamens came up big for the Spartans in the second half. The junior guard scored 16 points to lead the Spartans, with all but two of those points coming in the second half. Herkert, who was the only Spartan to get the free throw line in the game until the fourth quarter, finished with 12.
“I told the girls that this was a good team, and nothing against them, but we need to find away to get over the hump,” Biertzer said. “Moral victories are only nice to a certain extent. They are tough team, and I thought we played them tough. It was a physical game; a grind it out kinda game. We have to not be content with just hanging around with them. We have to find away to get over that next hurdle.”
Kimberly 7 15 19 9 — 50
Oshkosh North 7 7 12 15 — 42
Kimberly: Wurtz 21, McMorrow 5, Smarzinski 3, Vanden Heuvel 2, Pirman 13, Hetto 6. 3-pointers: 3 (Wurtz, McMorrow, Pirman). FTs: 15-25. Total fouls: 13.
Oshkosh North: Westemeier 5, Redlin 2, Robl 2, Herkert 12, Schamens 16, Adams 5. 3-pointers: 3 (Schamens 2, Adams). FTs: 8-10. Total fouls: 16.