On Tuesday night, the Oshkosh North girls basketball team took a lead into the fourth quarter against a very good Hortonville team only to see the Polar Bears erase the 12-point deficit and sting the Spartans with a loss.
But, with North leading by four points after the third quarter against crosstown rival Oshkosh West, the Spartans were simply not going to let history repeat itself. And in the end, the group made a little history of their own.
Oshkosh North overcame a scoreless second quarter and a 2-of-10 performance at the free-throw line in fourth quarter to hold off the Wildcats, 32-25, on Friday night as the Spartans posted their first regular-season win over their rivals since the fall of 2000. North did beat West in the 2013 WIAA playoffs.
“We all just kind of looked at each other and said ‘We’re winning. There’s no alternative. We’re going to get this done,'” North senior Cassie Buerger said. “It feels great, so good, I can’t even explain it right now.
“Especially senior year, you just want to come out and leave that impression as you leave and go out to the future. We’re all so pumped and I couldn’t be happier.”
The win erased some of the disappointment from Tuesday’s loss to Hortonville for the Spartans (3-4, 3-8) and head coach Rachel Biertzer believes it’s definitely a victory the team can build on.
“We’re young, it’s a process and we keep progressing positively every day. Our biggest message this whole season is that it is going to be a journey,” Biertzer said. “(Tonight) wasn’t the prettiest game ever, but much like my golf game, ugly but effective is OK.”
Oshkosh West (2-5, 2-9), which lost one of its top scorers McKenna Fassbinder early in the second quarter, never led in the game after going scoreless in the first quarter.
The Wildcats held the Spartans to their second-lowest point total in a Fox Valley Association game this season, but couldn’t generate enough offense against North’s zone to net the win.
“That’s credit to North and what they did and their gameplan defensively in the 1-3-1 (zone). We knew it was coming, but we didn’t attack it like we needed, too,” West coach Niki Sutter said. “That’s kind of been one of our problems this year. When we’ve gotten a spark we haven’t ridden that. We haven’t played with emotion and enthusiasm when something got us going.”
After the two teams took turns posting scoreless quarters in the first half — West in the first and North in the second — the Spartans were able to seize a bit of control late in the third period.
The Wildcats had trimmed the Spartans lead to two on an Amber Tigert layup, but the Spartans responded with a 6-0 run on baskets from Sammy Buerger, Megan Pett and Samantha Foote to take an 18-10 advantage.
Foote scored six of her game-high 10 points in the third period to provide the Spartans with a spark.
“She was huge,” Biertzer said of Foote. “I think Sam Foote’s progress as a basketball player and maturation has been outstanding. She’s been a great spark for us and a great leader.”
Foote said it was just a matter of the offense functioning together that helped get things going, something the team didn’t do well in the first half.
“We just used our strengths. We pushed up the floor, passed it around and weren’t selfish. We did our thing on defense and just held them,” Foote said. “”We weren’t attacking using our strengths (in the first half).”
Tigert, who led West with six points, scored the final four points of the third quarter to get the Wildcats within four at 18-14 while North saw its lead to shrink to as little three points on three different occasions. The last time came with 4:12 led after two free throws from Marissa Edwards made the score 22-19.
But North would not cave.
“Definitely playing together and knowing the feeling we had after playing Hortonville. We did not want to feel that again,” said Cassie Buerger, who finished with seven points. “We just had a drive to win. We weren’t going to lose.”
Sammy Buerger, who chipped in eight points, scored on back-to-back possessions — around an Emma Guenther free throw for West — to boost North’s lead back to 26-20, before three straight points on two possessions from Adaw Deng gave the Spartans their biggest lead of the night at 29-20.
“We obviously have a big post player (in Deng) and if we can get it to her, she can finish,” Foote said. “We had the points that we needed and then just pushed it until the end.”
Allison Nelson led the charge in the final quarter for West scoring all five of her points in the period, but it wasn’t enough to rally the Wildcats.
“Allison Nelson is one that plays hard on both ends of the floor all of the time,” Sutter said. “We said we needed to be more aggressive and attack on both ends of the court and so she got after it.”
Although North went just 2-of-10 from the free-throw line in the final quarter, the Spartans were able to hang on for the win getting a key layup from Cassie Buerger after sister Sammy Buerger secured an offensive rebound on a missed free throw with 34 seconds left.
“We made enough plays today to get the job done,” Biertzer said. “Sometimes you just have to have to find a way to dig deep and grind and I’m proud of the kids for doing that.”
Oshkosh West…0 6 8 11 — 25
Oshkosh North…8 0 10 14 — 32
Oshkosh West : Roberts 2, Nelson 5, Guenther 5, Rumlow 2, Welch 1, Tigert 6, Edwards 4. 3-pointers: None. FTs: 13-28. Fouls: 15.
Oshkosh North : C. Bueger 7, S. Buerger 8, Foote 10, Deng 5, Pett 2. 3-pointers: 1 (Foote). FTs: 3-16. Fouls: 21. Fouled out: Foote.
Steve Clark: (920) 426-6659 or email@example.com
For more photos and video from the game, go to thenorthwestern.com.