It’s been nearly a month since the Wausau West girls basketball team hit rock bottom defensively, allowing 75 points in a nonconference loss to Chippewa Falls.
The Warriors have increased their intensity on that end of the floor since, and it’s a reason why they are in the thick of the Wisconsin Valley Conference race.
That run continued Friday as the host Warriors beat Marshfield 64-54 in a wild matchup in which Tigers coach Heidi Michaelis received a double technical midway through the third quarter and was ejected. With the win, the Warriors earned a regular-season sweep of the Tigers and remained a half game behind Stevens Point Area Senior High with a showdown in Point set for Feb. 12.
“I think our defensive effort has been outstanding and that’s when we’re going to play well,” said West coach Pat Galligan, whose team held Marshfield to 16 points in first half “The Chippewa game was tough because it was the second of back-to-back nights, but we’re not an excuses-type of culture. We just said we need to get better on defense and we’ve done that.
“We’ve done that battled tough teams. We’ve played Everest and Marshfield teams that our at the top of our conference,” Galligan added. “We just have to keep grinding (defensively).
West’s Jasmin Samz had a game-high 25 points, while Anna Brown and Caity Coleman added 14 and 13 points, respectively, for the Warriors. Marshfield’s Ellie Fehrenbach led the Tigers with 14 points, and Darian Molter and Ellie Kummer both added 11 points.
Tigers’ sophomore guard Caitlin Michaelis entered the game leading the WVC in scoring average with 18.5 points per game, but was held to eight points against the tandem West’s Kierra Kohlbeck and Ellie Hrdina.
“Caitlin Michaelis works incredibly hard, and our kids did a great job and offer different things,” Galligan said. “Kierra has long arms, got in her way and made her feel uncomfortable, and Ellie just works so hard and made it uncomfortable for (Michaelis) to even get her shot. That’s one of the advantages we have in throwing a lot of athletes at her and making her work.”
West scored 17 of the game’s first 21 points, and the Warriors led by as many as 19 points in the first half. The Warriors hit all 13 of their free throw attempts in the half, while the Tigers didn’t get to the line once. The frustration carried over into the second half, as Michaelis received the double technical after erupting on a non-call midway through the third quarter. At the time, Marshfield had been whistled for 12 fouls, compared to just two for West.
Marshfield and West finished with 22 and 10 fouls, respectively.
An obviously frustrated Marshfield assistant coach Dean Bryan offered few comments after the game.
“Wausau West played hard, and played aggressive,” Bryan said. “We’ll give them credit for that.”
The ejection seemed to fire up the Tigers as they closed a 20-point deficit in half late in the fourth quarter.
“I think they handled their frustration very well, because they just kept battling,” Galligan said. “They’re a mature team and we had to work hard to make sure we secured the win.”
MARSHFIELD (54): Darian Molter 11, Natalie Zuelke 4, Caitlin Michaelis 8, Lauren Gilbertson 2, Ellie Kummer 11, Kailey Hubler 4, Ellie Fehrenbach 14.
WAUSAU WEST (64): Kierra Kohlbeck 6, Anna Brown 14, Jasmin Samz 25, Katie Cihlar 6, Caity Coleman 13.
3-pointers: Marshfield 4 (Molter 3, Kummer); Wausau West 1 (Samz).
Records Wausau West 10-6, 6-2 Wisconsin Valley Conference; Marshfield 8-6, 3-4 WVC.