There was a heavyweight bout at Berlin High School between the Indians and the state-ranked Fox Valley Lutheran Foxes girls basketball teams Friday night.
Both teams traded blow after blow, big shot after big shot.
Unfortunately for Berlin, the Foxes had the knockout punch.
Ashley Blob’s 3-pointer gave Foxes the lead late and they sealed up the game at the free-throw line to beat the Indians 61-54 in a key Eastern Valley Conference matchup.
The Foxes entered the final period up 48-41 thanks to a late third-quarter run.
But Berlin wasn’t going without a fight, going on a 9-0 run to start the quarter to take a 50-48 lead on a Julia Silloway 3-pointer.
The Foxes would answer two possessions later on a Brittany Baumann bucket to tie the game up.
Then came the dagger. Blob got a nice screen to the corner and knocked in the 3-pointer to provide all the lead the Foxes would need.
Berlin would have some shots to cut into the lead but the Foxes defense tightened up and didn’t allow the Indians to come any closer.
“We kind of had a problem getting our posts going,” Berlin coach Joel Johansen said. “Defensively, we slowed down some. But we are happy with what we did. We know we are right there and we know what we need to do.”
Getting that post game was especially difficult in the first quarter for the Indians. The Foxes focused most of their defensive attention on Berlin’s leading scorer Callie Walker and held her scoreless in the first quarter.
“Offensively she was struggling in the first half but that was because they were double and triple teaming her,” Berlin guard Maddie Koster said. “It hurt us a little bit but she pulled through in the second half.”
Luckily for the Indians, another player stepped up. That player was Koster, who handled the Foxes’ mid-court trap beautifully, slicing and dicing her way to 12 first-half points for the Indians.
That’s been Koster’s mentality the past two weeks. Not only to get herself going, but also to make things easier for Walker.
“Obviously, Callie is in double digits every time,” Koster said. “So I thought if I’m able to drive, then maybe they will pull off of her and sink to me, then she has the opportunity to score again.”
That did take some pressure off of Walker, who started to find her game in the later part of the second quarter.
But for Johansen, the touches still weren’t enough for his star player.
“We had a problem getting her started,” he said. “Once we got her started she had that middle period where she did a really nice job. Then towards the end she was just gassed.”
Koster was able to mitigate some of those lost touches for Walker but in the end it wasn’t enough.
Koster finished with a game-high 26 points for the Indians. Walker chipped in with 13.
With the WIAA tournament just two weeks away, this was a much needed test for the Indians. They get another one next week in state-ranked Xavier.
For Johansen and his Berlin squad, that’s the perfect primer for tourney time.
“I told the girls before this game that these last three games are like a practice,” he said. “It’s the most intense practice we are going to get because we see two of the top ranked teams in D3. It’s going to be real easy for us to gauge where we are at.
“If we can play as tough as we did tonight, that’s just nothing but exciting for the stretch run.”
Notes: Fox Valley Lutheran had three girls in double figures…The Foxes were led by Grace Schultz, who scored 16 points.
Game ball: Koster, when things weren’t going well down low for the Indians, Koster took over and pushed the pace of the game and netted a game-high 26 points.
Numbers game: 0, the number of free throws made by the Foxes before the final minute of the game. They were 0-of-8 before that but made 6-of-6 late to seal the game and not allow the Indians back in it.
Fox Valley Luth….10 15 23 13 — 61
Berlin…12 14 15 13 — 54
Fox Valley Lutheran: Johnson 2, Baumann 11, Radue 9, Blob 3, Schultz 16, Hammer 8, Wilson 2, Huntington 10. 3-pointers: 3 (Baumann, Radue, Blob). FTs: 6-14. Total fouls: 20.
Berlin: Silloway 8, Walker 13, Koster 26, Trochinski 7. 3-pointers: 3 (Silloway 2, Koster). FTs: 15-22. Total fouls: 14