The D.C. Everest girls still sit atop the Wisconsin Valley Conference standings near the midway point of the league season.
Thanks to Wausau West, the Evergreens once again have some company.
Sparked by a 19-point first-half outburst by sophomore guard Jasmin Samz, the Warriors broke open a close game in the second quarter and held on to defeat the Evergreens, 56-44, Tuesday night at the Everest Fieldhouse.
The loss dropped the Evergreens into a three-way tie with Stevens Point and Merrill for first in the Valley at 4-1. It was also only the second of the season for the Evergreens, who fell to 9-2 overall.
West, meanwhile, stayed within striking distance by improving to 4-2 in league play and 8-6 overall.
“This was a huge game for us to get a win on the road and knock off the only team left that was undefeated,” said West coach Pat Galligan, whose team was coming off a tough loss last Friday at home against SPASH. “It gives us tremendous confidence for the second time around (the conference).”
One player who had to get a tremendous boost of confidence was Samz, who came out on fire by scoring West’s first 10 points of the game and 12 in the quarter. The Evergreens kept it close in the first quarter due in large part to four 3-pointers in period from four different players against West’s 2-3 zone.
The second quarter was a different story as West stayed hot by hitting 7 of 10 field goal attempts in the period while Everest went 3-for-20, including 1-for-9 from 3-point range.
“I wasn’t surprised to see a zone and we worked against it this week in practice,” Everest coach Matt Bullis said. “We came out making shots and ran fairly good offense. We just didn’t get a lot of interior points tonight. We had four points out of the post and we need to be more balanced than that.”
The Warriors started to show their balance in the second quarter. Samz stayed red hot, scoring seven more points in the period while hitting 8 of her 9 field goal attempts in the half and both of her free-throw attempts. But Katy Cihlar and Caity Coleman added four points apiece in the period as West extended its lead to 34-22 at halftime.
The advantage remained 12 after three quarters before Everest put together a 7-0 run to pull within five early in the fourth. But the Warriors, behind six points from Anna Brown and four from Coleman, went on a 12-2 run to put the game out of reach.
“Give them credit, they played a great game and made shots,” Bullis said of the Warriors, who shot 54 percent as a team. “We got back into it with our press a little bit, but we had too many turnovers. You can’t turn a turnover into a turnover. We just can’t dig ourselves that big a hole and expect to get it back against a team like West.”
Samz finished with a game-high 21 points for the Warriors while Brown, Cihlar and Coleman each added 10.
“Jas is a heck of a player but we didn’t play defense as well as we are capable,” Bullis said. “We didn’t guard her early. We did a better job late but when the game was in doubt, she took over.”
Galligan said Samz still had a big impact in the second half.
“They did a good job of keeping her from scoring in the second half but she was still effective in the game distributing the ball and that’s why we scored those points,” Galligan said . “She understands her role and when they tried to shut her down in the second half, she didn’t force anything and made intelligent basketball plays. “
Brianna Ziolkowski led the Evergreens with 17 points, including four 3-pointers, while Lauren Anklam added eight.
“They got nine 3-pointers but only six 2-pointers and barely got to the line,” Galligan said. “You look at somebody like Lauren and to keep her off the line is extremely important because she is such a good shooter and makes things happen for them.
“I have to give our girls tremendous credit. We had seven girls and one who was sick as it was. We threw a zone at them and showed the type of basketball intelligence we can play with.”
Things don’t get any easier for the Evergreens, who will host SPASH on Friday night.
“I stressed to the girls that this was a big game and I don’t think we looked past them,” Bullis said of West. “”We didn’t defend as well as we have been.
WEST (56): Kierra Kohlbeck 2, Anna Brown 10, Erin Bardonner 3, Jasmin Samz 21, Katy Cihlar 10, Caity Coleman 10. FG: 19-35, 54%. FT: 15-20, 75%.
EVEREST (44): Hannah Tipple 1, Haley Kroll 5, Mali Theiss 5, Brianna Ziolkowski 17, Lauren Anklam 8, Mackenzie Mathies 4, Makayla Pagel 2, Taylor Hodell 2. FG: 15-51, 29%. FT: 5-8, 63%.
3-point field goals: West 1 (Samz); Everest 9 (Ziolkowski 5, Kroll, Theiss, Anklam, Mathies). Records: West 8-6, 4-2 WVC; Everest 9-2, 4-1 WVC.