ALGOMA – Anna Dier stepped outside her comfort zone Thursday.
The 6-foot junior’s decision to do so was a key reason the Algoma girls basketball team was able to hold off Green Bay Preble for a 51-42 nonconference victory.
Dier made her first 3-pointer of the season with 2 minutes remaining to extend the Wolves’ lead to nine points against their Division 1 counterpart from the Fox River Classic Conference.
Algoma (6-0) went on to post its 14th straight regular-season victory since losing at Preble (3-2) last year.
“I had just called a play for her to go down in the post as she was shooting it,” Algoma coach Mark Zastrow said. “So, I basically said to her, ‘I guess you didn’t want to run that play, did ya?’ She just smiled. But we’ve been asking her to hit that shot and pull the trigger. We’re going to expect that from her.”
FRCC opponents have come to expect a tough matchup when they square off against the Wolves, who have played in the Division 4 state championship game three of the past four years and ranked No. 2 in the Wissports.net’s coaches’ poll this season.
Zastrow is now 14-2 against FRCC teams in his nine seasons as Algoma’s coach.
Thursday’s game was the first of four the Wolves will play against the conference this season. They’ll play at Pulaski on Monday before facing De Pere and Bay Port in January.
Just as Dier was willing to step outside for the key 3-pointer late in the contest, the Wolves’ willingness to step up and play D1 and D2 teams over the years is a key factor in their postseason success.
“I think it’s very good to have that because our kids are going to learn more by failure than they are by success,” said Zastrow, whose team has won shares of eight straight Packerland Conference titles.
“You saw tonight our kids learned a lot, and we as coaches learned a lot about how we are going to handle bigger and physical kids and people that are going to put us on our heels because we haven’t seen a whole lot of that.”
Preble also has a daunting schedule.
It already played defending FRCC champion Sheboygan North, which is ranked No. 9 in D1. The Hornets will play No. 5 De Pere next Friday and No. 3 Milwaukee King on Dec. 29.
Preble graduated only two players from last year’s team, which went 1-2 against the Redbirds. But second-year coach Kellly Simcik said facing a team like Algoma only helps her squad.
“Zastrow’s a great coach and he deserves to be playing us because he continues to get wins against our conference,” said Simcik, whose team shot 8-for-8 from the field in the third quarter after Algoma ended the first half on an 11-2 run. “He’s like a relative of our conference.”
Thursday’s game was relatively close until the Wolves pulled away midway through the fourth quarter.
They were 17-for-25 from the free-throw line, including a 9-for-10 performance by Baleigh Delorit, who also made three 3s in tallying a game-high 22 points. Leslie Giesler led Preble with 17 points, including two 3s at the start of the game.
Although Dier’s trey was big, her play in the post against Preble senior Isabella Samuels was equally important.
Samuels finished with 12 points, while Dier totaled 16. The even matchup between the pair of standouts was reflected by the team rebounding totals, as Algoma had only a 23-22 edge.
“It was a great battle,” Zastrow said. “I’ve coached (Samuels) in the summer, and she’s a great kid. She’s working really hard and doing a good job, and (Dier) has obviously been doing well, so it was a good matchup.”
That’s what Algoma and its FRCC counterparts like Preble have come to expect when they see each other on the schedule.
“We like the challenge,” Simcik said. “It’s just that after games like tonight we have to rebound, cut our turnovers down and keep working hard.”
Preble … 6 9 16 11 – 42
Algoma … 7 12 15 17 – 51
P: Harris 1, Anderson 4, Conard 2, Samuels 12, Malcore 6, Giesler 17. 3-pt: Giesler 2. FT: 4-12. F: 23.
A: Delorit 22, Koss 2, Demmin 4, Haack 1, Feuerstein 2, Pierre 4, Dier 16. 3-pt: Delorit 3, Dier 1. FT: 17-25. F: 14.