Down one key player and coming off an emotional win just three days earlier, it would have been hard to find fault with the Oshkosh North girls basketball team had they stubbed their collective toes against Appleton West on Tuesday night.
Instead, the Spartans were the ones doing the stubbing.
Sammy Buerger keyed a fast start and finished with 19 points, the defense forced 21 turnovers in the first three quarters and the Spartans withstood a fourth-quarter charge from the scrappy Terrors to claim a 43-33 win.
“We talked about being able to string some victories together. We hadn’t done that yet this year so that was really good for the kids,” North coach Rachel Biertzer said. “For us it’s a journey and we talked about the little benchmarks along the way to where we want to be. I think we’re headed in that direction.”
The win evens the Spartans’ conference record at 4-4, while the victory marks the first time this season North — which was playing without starter Samantha Foote because of illness — has put together back-to-back wins.
“I think the way the kids responded having Sam Foote out sick today was great. They played hard, played well enough to win,” Biertzer said. “Appleton West is one of those scrappy, never going to go away, never say die kind of teams. Any time you can win an FVA game and beat a team like that, it’s a good game.”
The Spartans (4-8 overall) never trailed in the game as they the Terrors scoreless for nearly seven minutes to start the game and built a 10-0 lead before Appleton West got on the scoreboard.
Buerger scored eight points in the opening barrage and rode that strong start to a season-high point total.
“When you see your (teammates) make a shot then you just get amped and you want to take it to the hoop,” Buerger said. “Then you start making shots, it’s great. It’s a good feeling.”
North stretched its lead over the next two quarters, taking a 20-11 halftime lead before taking a 12-point advantage into the fourth quarter.
And it was the Spartans’ defense that helped keep the Terrors at bay.
In addition to forcing the turnovers, Appleton West shot just 18 percent from the floor (5-of-27), including 4-of-18 from 3-point range.
“Our 1-3-1 has been pretty strong throughout the year,” Buerger said. “Our defense has been pretty solid and we’ve been working on it in practice, and it’s just fallen together.”
West, however, was able to pick things up in the fourth quarter to make a run at the Spartans’ lead.
North’s Kaylee Anthes, who chipped in eight points, drained a key 3-pointer to answer five straight points from the Terrors, while an Adaw Deng basket put the Spartans up 35-23 with 4:20 remaining.
The Terrors countered with an 8-2 run, cutting the Spartans’ advantage to 37-31 with 1:05 left on a Zoey Zuleger 3-pointer — West’s seventh 3-pointer of the game.
“We talk about (the loss to) Hortonville a lot and games like that are a wonderful opportunity to learn and grow from and to make your season and not break your season,” Biertzer said. “They found a way to get the job to done. So kudos to our kids on that.”
Buerger stemmed the tide with a pair of free throws and Anthes added another to push the lead back to nine and then North got a huge hustle play from Ellerie Laatsch, who tracked down Deng’s missed free throw, drew a foul and made two free throws with 25 seconds left to all but seal the win.
“I’m hoping (this is a turning point), I think we are all hoping so,” Buerger said. “We’re just pushing through it, getting through practices, working hard, getting through games — just stringing them together and hopefully we’ll continue to do that.”
Appleton West…2 9 5 17 — 33
Oshkosh North…10 10 8 15 — 43
Appleton West : Verhyen 11, Cocking 2, Kohl 3, Zuleger 9, Wypiszynski 6, Pritzl 2. 3-pointers: 7 (Zuleger 3, Verhyen 3, Kohl). FTs: 2-2. Fouls: 13.
Oshkosh North : C. Buerger 4, Laatsch 2, S. Buerger 19, Anthes 8, Hansen 2, Deng 8. 3-pointers: 1 (Anthes). FTs: 8-14. Fouls: 10.
Steve Clark: (920) 426-6659 or firstname.lastname@example.org