The East Troy tandem of Rachel Atchison and Breanna Gaspervich ended the Neillsville girls basketball team’s 54-game winning streak, and hopes of a second straight WIAA state championship, Friday morning at the Resch Center.
Atchison had six of East Troy’s 11 3-pointers, and Gaspervich scored 20 of her team-high 25 points in the second half as the Trojans downed the Warriors 68-56 in a WIAA Division 3 state semifinal. Atchison and East Troy set Division 3 marks and tied single-game state tournament records for 3-pointers.
East Troy (26-1) plays today against defending state champion Kewaunee (26-1) for the title.
East Troy beat an undefeated Milwaukee School of Languages in the regional final, and then a Kettle Moraine Lutheran team that was riding a 21-game winning streak and perennial powerhouse Oostburg in the sectionals to earn a trip to state.
“I knew coming in it was going to be a game of tempo and I think its pretty obvious which team was able to control the tempo,” Neillsville coach John Gaier said. “That’s a tough team to defend and when they shoot the ball as well as they did this morning, they’re going to give you fits. They certainly did to us.”
Neillsville junior Jenny Lindner scored 22 of her 26 points in the first half, and Molly Attoe added nine points. East Troy switched from man to a 2-3 zone in the second half due to three of the five starters having two fouls at the break. Lindner had 16 points in the second quarter to help the Warriors to a 32-28 lead at the break.
“We talked at the half about some of the things we had to clean up,” East Troy coach Jeff Brown said. “I know I’ve got the best shooters around, but defensively we had to clean it up. Their best player, Lindner — Holy Hannah — she was amazing. We did a little better job in the second half, maybe we wore her down a little bit.”
Neillsville (26-1) had a six-point lead 11 seconds into the second half, but Gaspervich had eight straight points as East Troy responded with an 11-0 run to take the lead for good.
“I just had a feeling that I could make it and kept shooting,” Gaspervich said. “I just had a fire in me.”
Added Brown, “We always think we’re going to have at least one run in us because we just shoot the ball so well. We just keep looking for it and keep looking for it.”
East Troy, which shot 47.5 percent from the field, outscored Neillsville 21-8 in the pivotal third quarter and led by nine points going into the fourth quarter. Neillsville, which won the Division 4 state title last year, never got closer than seven points the rest of the way as the Warriors suffered their first loss since Altoona edged them 41-39 in the sectionals in the 2011.
“Everybody wants a piece of you and everybody brings their ‘A’ game,” Gaier sad about the impact the streak had on his team. “For these kids to answer that day in and day out is just an incredible compliment to them and they deserve a tremendous amount of credit.”
Before Friday, the Warriors never allowed more than 37 points in a game this season. East Troy surpassed that mark midway through the third quarter on a 3-pointer by Atchison. East Troy hit five of its nine 3-point attempts in the third quarter.
“We have a radio station near us that nicknamed us ‘The Brown Bombers’, and I sort of like it,” Brown said. “The kids can really, really shoot and they just put a ton of time in on it. Rachel has the green light all the time.”
EAST TROY (68): Frankie Morris 3, Andrea Olsen 12, Alicia Oleson 7, Breanna Gaspervich 25, Rachel Atchison 19, Alee Schahczinski 2.
NEILLSVILLE (56): Katelyn Crothers 5, Molly Attoe 9, Jenny Lindner 26, Caitlynne Naughton 7, Lindsey Opelt 3, Samie Larrabee 1, Sierra Bethea 1, Wendy Barth 4.
3-pointers: East Troy 11 (Atchison 6, Gaspervich 4, Oleson), Neillsville 5 (Lindner 3,Crothers, Opelt).
Records: East Troy 26-1, Neillsville 26-1