After one half of Friday’s game against Little Chute, Fox Valley Lutheran girls’ basketball coach David Wenzel was worried that an offensive funk was becoming a trend.
“After a loss, no matter what you say, you still have that taste in your mouth from what happened last time,” Wenzel said after the Foxes hit just five of 21 first-half shots against the Mustangs, just three days after being held to 23 points by Xavier in FVL’s first Eastern Valley Conference loss of the year.
“Then when you struggle coming out, you’re thinking, ‘Oh boy, here we go again.’ “
The Foxes didn’t exactly break out on offense in the second half Friday, but they found enough to rally past Little Chute for a 32-29 win and remain tied atop of the conference standings with Xavier. Each team has a 12-1 conference record.
Little Chute clamped its defense on FVL during the opening two quarters, building as much as a seven-point lead. The Mustangs anticipated the Foxes’ weak-side cuts, bumping the numerous cutters off stride and holding FVL scoreless for more than nine minutes.
“That was probably our best defensive half of the entire season,” Mustangs coach Jim Neubert said. “Every kid we put on the court did what we had practiced.”
The Foxes, who entered the week ranked fifth in the Wishoops.net Division 3 state poll, hit halftime having scored just 35 points in their last 48 minutes of play. If Wenzel was worried, though, his players didn’t have the same fears.
“I don’t think we were as worried as much as we wanted to come back strong,” said junior Grace Schultz, who scored all of her team-high nine points in the second half. “We had to keep our composure. We knew we were still in first (place) after the Xavier game, so we just had to go out and play.”
Schultz’s layup with 1:39 left in the third period gave FVL its first lead at 23-22 and an advantage it would never give back. At the same time, the Mustangs were struggling against the Foxes’ half-court trap defense, turning the ball over four times on six possessions late in the third period.
FVL closed the third quarter with a 10-0 run to go up 26-22.
“Against full-court pressure, we’re OK, but we struggle against the half-court,” Neubert said. “It’s been like this all season, and maybe that’s a sign of how young we are (only one senior on the roster).”
The Foxes used that defense to spark their offense, even though they extended possessions for 30 seconds or more in the fourth quarter. Little Chute made a final run by scoring the game’s final seven points over four minutes, including Abbie Botz’s layup at the buzzer to close the gap to three.
McKenna Joosten had 12 points to lead the Mustangs, who committed 11 turnovers in the second half.
FVL, meanwhile, still doesn’t have its offense back up to full throttle, but it’s in the place it wants to be.
“We recognize that every game we have left is for a conference championship,” Wenzel said. “We’re tied with Xavier now, but if we stumble, then you’re just hoping and hoping for somebody else to do something. The girls feel some pressure, but it’s a good pressure.”
Fox Valley Lutheran: Bauman 4, Radue 5, Blob 4, Schultz 9, Hammer 4, Huntington 6. Totals 13 5-7 32. Fouls: 8.
Little Chute: LeNoble 2, Botz 9, Schepp 6, Joosten 12. Totals 12 4-9 29. Fouls: 9.
3-Point Goals: Fox Valley Lutheran 1 (Radue 1), Little Chute 1 (Botz 1).