For Iola-Scandinavia’s Jane Oligney, the baskets at the Student Activities Center at Pacelli High School must have felt like she was shooting into hula hoops during the first quarter Friday night.
Just the opposite was true for Pacelli’s players, the baskets looked more like the size of thimbles for the better part of three quarters.
Oligney drained three 3-pointers in the opening quarter and the Thunderbirds built an 18-point lead and then had to hold off Pacelli for a 34-27 victory in the Central Wisconsin Conference-8 opener for both teams.
“Three out of three was nice, but then they started to face-guard me and switch on screens,” said Oligney, who knocked down her first three attempts from behind the 3-point arc. “It’s great to get the first win in the conference and at 3-0 (overall), we’re off to a great start.”
Conversely, Pacelli couldn’t have imagined a worse start on both ends of the court, helping to explain the 26-8 hole it found itself in at halftime.
After the Cardinals missed their first 26 field goal attempts, Marisa Rice finally connected from close range to end the field-goal drought with 3:10 left in the third quarter.
“It’s frustrating because you’ve just got to make shots. We don’t expect to make them all, but there’s no excuse as much as we shoot in practice,” said coach Todd Rice of his team’s cold hand.
For the Cardinals to even be in the game when the fourth quarter rolled around is a testament to their tenacity and never-say-die attitude.
The T-Birds also went cold in the second half with a frigid 2 for 24 performance from the field — at the same end of the court that gave Pacelli so many troubles.
Back-to-back 3-pointers by Andrea Davis and Rice, who paced Pacelli with 11 points, closed the gap to 30-20 with 5:30 left in regulation.
Things got even more interesting when Anna Lensmire went on a five-point scoring binge to pull the Cardinals within 30-25 with three minutes left in the final quarter.
“I guess they like a challenge,” coach Rice said of digging the deep early hole. “I guess it means we work hard on defense. I think we just ran out of energy.”
Oligney and Phillips connected on 4 of 7 free throws down the stretch to help hold off the Cardinals.
Early indications were that the Thunderbirds might be on their way to blowing Pacelli out of the gym.
Oligney finished with nine points in the opening quarter to outscore Pacelli by herself in the first half. She finished with 13 points.
Brooke Phillips added five points in the first quarter as the I-S lead grew to a seemingly insurmountable 18-2 cushion.
“If we can get off to start like that, it helps so much because basketball is a game of confidence,” I-S coach Mark Wester said. “We had some opportunities to blow them out in the third quarter, but the ball just didn’t go in the hoop.”
Phillips, who also chipped in with 13 points, accounted for six of her team’s eight points in the second quarter as I-S was able to extend its advantage.
Still, things got a little too close for comfort for Wester’s liking in the fourth quarter.
“I guess it was meant to be entertaining on some level,” the T-Birds coach said. “Give credit to Pacelli for not giving up. We knew they wouldn’t, they have a very scrappy group of athletes and competitors.”
Iola-Scandinavia (34): Kylie Johnson 4, Brooke Phillips 13, Jane Oligney 13, Krystal Tysdal 4.
Pacelli (27): Marisa Rice 11, Andrea Davis 3, Sami Kay Shafranski 3, Anna Lensmire 10.
3-pointers: Iola-Scandinavia 3 (Oligney 3), Pacelli 3 (Rice 2, Davis).
Records: Pacelli 1-1, 0-1 CWC 8; Iola-Scandinavia 3-0, 1-0 CWC 8.