Oshkosh West’s Deidra Unger couldn’t contain the large grin and subtle laugh when she spoke of how good it felt to beat rival Oshkosh North.
“Really good,” she got out before her smile seemingly cut off any other words.
The Wildcats should be used to that feeling by now.
West extended its regular-season winning streak over North to 25 games with a hard-earned 45-39 win over the Spartans as both teams capped their regular seasons with the rivalry game on Thursday night on Steven L. Randall Court.
“This game helps restore our confidence after two losses,” said senior Marina Hereford, referring to West dropping back-to-back games to Kimberly and Appleton North before facing the Spartans. “It just helps us overall as a team going into any game, it doesn’t matter who we play.”
The Wildcats used a balanced scoring attack that saw three players — Bailey Schultz with 11 and Hereford and Unger each with 10 — reach double figures to collect the win as North never led in the game.
Yet, it was West’s dominant rebounding effort that proved to be the difference. The Wildcats outrebounded the Spartans by a 33-19 margin and had least 10 second-chance points in the win.
“It’s a little thing that makes a huge difference especially in close ballgames,” said West coach Niki Sutter, whose team leads the FVA in overall rebounding. “We take pride in that we can get some second chances on offense by offensive rebounding, it helps us out offensively, too.”
Many of the offensive rebounds came as North was playing their 1-3-1 zone.
Unger and Marissa Edwards each scored off of putbacks in the opening 3½ minutes of the game, while another Unger second-chance opportunity later in the period help West take a 11-7 lead at the end of the first quarter.
“We just attacked and crashed,” said Unger, who along with Hereford finished with a team-high seven rebounds. “We knew on the back end we would have an advantage basically and we just wanted to attack because we knew the offensive boards were going to be there.”
The frustrating part for North was rebounding was something the team discussed entering the game.
“That was our point of emphasis before the game,” North coach Rachel Biertzer said. “They are physical and we just didn’t execute on that end the way we would have liked to and that was pretty much the difference in the game right there.”
Once the Wildcats got the lead, they never gave it up either.
Three different times during the game North scored four straight points, but never more than that as West wouldn’t allow the Spartans to get on a momentum-changing run.
“When (North) got on runs, someone got a stop on defense or hit a big shot and so I think the whole team came around and did what they had to do,” Hereford said. “That really helped a lot.”
Schultz drained a 3-pointer early in the second quarter after North had pulled within 11-10 with its first four-point run.
The freshman also hit a 3-pointer early in the fourth quarter after the Spartans had pulled to within three.
“Not necessarily expecting her (to make those shots), but we know that she is capable of doing that,” Sutter said. “She was in the right spots offensively for us tonight. She did a great job of playing within the offense tonight and knocking down those huge shots for us.”
The Spartans also scored four straight points in a seven-second span with less than a minute to go in the fourth quarter as Kiaya Adams hit to free throws and Brooklyn Schamens scored off a steal to slice West’s lead to 42-39.
This time, it was Hereford coming through for West making 3-of-4 free throws in the final 30 seconds. The Wildcats then forced North into a turnover with eight seconds left and dribbled out the time for the win.
“I didn’t make all of the ones I should have made, that I would have liked to make, but I thought I made them when they were important,’ Hereford said. “I just try to do them like I do in practice, I guess. Coach Sutter makes us shoot a lot of free throws.”
It was enough to keep North at bay in the closing seconds — just as West did the entire night.
And enough for the Wildcats to continue their winning ways over their rivals.
“We had our opportunities. We kept battling but we just couldn’t get overt hat hump,” Biertzer said. “That’s a credit to them and the preparation their coaching staff did for us. Hopefully we will get to see them again down the road.”
Notes: Schamens led North with 14 points but no other Spartan finished with more than six. … The two teams could meet again this season in a WIAA Division 1 regional final a week from Saturday. Both teams would have to win their regional semifinal games next Friday. … The final six seconds of the third quarter proved to be wild as Schultz hit a 3-pointer on one end to put West ahead 33-24, only to have North’s Liz Redlin answer with a 25-foot heave at the buzzer.
Game ball: Unger for her 10 points and seven rebounds, the bulk of which were on the offensive end.
By The Numbers: 18, the number of turnovers for West compared to just seven for North, but the Wildcats were still able to pull out the win.
Oshkosh North 7 7 13 12 — 39
Oshkosh West 11 11 11 12 — 45
Oshkosh North: Welsh 5, Westemeier 2, Redlin 6, Robl 2, Herkert 6, Schamens 14, Adams 4. 3-pointers: 2 (Schamens, Redlin). FTs: 9-11. Total fouls: 16. Fouled out: Welsh.
Oshkosh West: Schultz 11, Hereford 10, Unger 10, Tigert 2, Edwards 8, Christopherson 4. 3-pointers: 3 (Schultz 3). FTs: 10-18. Total fouls: 8.