By PAUL WHITT
Special to The Daily News
SCHOFIELD, Wis. – During the course of this season, the Goodman-Pembine girls basketball team faced opponents with a variety of strengths. Some teams had size, some speed and some shooting, but the Patriots captured 19 wins and a region championship along the way.
Saturday, the Patriots ran into an Assumption team that had everything – size, speed and shooting – plus depth – and found themselves with few answers.
The defending WIAA Division 5 state champion Royals used unrelenting full court pressure, transition baskets and their seemingly endless depth to cruise past the Patriots 58-34 in the sectional final at D.C. Everest High School.
“We knew they were a great basketball team with their record, their conference, and being defending state champions,” coach Dennis Bilski said. “We knew it was going to be a big task against 84 feet of pressure. And it ended up being exactly that.”
Assumption, paced by sophomore Macie Zurfluh’s game high 17 points, actually started slowly, missing their first two free throws and six shots from the field. In fact, the Patriots held the powerful Royals’ squad scoreless for the first four minutes of the game, and looked ready to give the private school from Wisconsin Rapids a battle for 32 minutes. But during that same time, G-P managed only one field goal attempt, a layup by Claire Goyak, and committed five turnovers to cling to a 2-0 lead halfway through the first quarter.
“I was proud of the team for the way we started,” Bilski said. “We made some mistakes but we were playing tough defense and were gaining a little confidence the longer we held them scoreless. We started believing we could play with them. But they just kept turning up the pressure and things changed in a hurry.”
Assumption broke the ice on a 15-foot baseline jumper by Britney Birkhauser with 3:55 left, and got a steal and layup by Mary Sigler a few seconds later. Then Zurfluh scored the final 12 points of the quarter for the Royals including a 3-pointer at the buzzer to close the first frame with Assumption holding a 16-4 advantage.
The Royals would continue the streak, scoring the first five of the second quarter and held a 21-4 lead after a jumper by Birkhauser with 5:29 left in the half. But the Patriots did not quit, and sparked by a Marissa Moloney 15-foot jumper, went on a 10-1 run of their own. The lead was down to 22-14 when Courtney Goyak made two free throws with 55 seconds remaining in the half, and G-P had definitely regained the momentum.
“Hey, our girls responded big time when they went up big in the second,” he said. “We got it back down to eight, and knew we were in the ballgame.”
An Assumption basket, followed by two missed free throws by the Patriots gave Assumption the final possession of the half. After two missed shots and offensive rebounds, Sadie Zurfluh gathered the ball in the corner and drained a long two-point field goal at the buzzer to send the Royals to the locker room with a 26-14 lead.
“Yeah, they made that shot at the buzzer, and it was a momentum swing back to them,” Bilski said. “But it really didn’t phase our kids. The locker room was very positive and confident looking towards the second half.”
But the Royals started the second half with more of their suffocating pressure, utilizing their depth to continue forcing and converting Patriot turnovers into easy baskets. And when G-P was able to solve the press and get into the frontcourt, they were still mostly unsettled offensively and, according to Bilski, weren’t able to run their offense as usual. For the game, the Patriots committed 30 turnovers while only being able to attempt 25 field goals. Courtney Goyak led the Patriots with 13 points and 16 rebounds.
“We were really never able to solve their pressure,” he said. “It was just relentless. We got through it at times, but weren’t able to get in a rhythm. They just kept coming in waves, playing eight, nine and ten players with little drop off. They’re a great team. But I was proud of our girls for not giving up, even when things were tough, and played hard to the last horn.”
Despite the loss in the sectional final, Bilski said he was proud as usual of his team for their great season, and especially thankful for the group of seven seniors that make up the Patriot roster.
“The games and wins are nice, but they’re just numbers on a scoreboard and in a scorebook,” Bilski said. The thing I’ll remember most from the season are the kids. They’re a great bunch of girls that get along like family. This group of seniors worked hard in the summer, and made a commitment to come into the season and be the best they could be. That’s why we were successful”
Reflecting on his two 1,000 point-scoring seniors, Courtney Goyak and Rachel Stankevich, Bilski mentioned their leadership roles.
“Courtney and Rachel lead by example,” he said. “They work so hard on the court, always complimenting each other. They tried to encourage the rest of the team to do their best, they’re so special. They’re very deserving first-team all-conference players, but more than that, they’re great kids.”
Good.-Pembine 4 10 8 12 – 34
Assumption 16 10 17 15 – 58
GP: Moloney 4, Cl. Goyak 8, Peed 2, Stankevich 7, Co. Goyak 13. FT: 12-25. F: 14.
A: Linzmierer 2, Singler 11, M. Zurfluh 17, Grundhoffe 8, Birkhauser 6, S. Zurfluh 3, Skibba 11. 3-PT: M. Zurfluh. FT: 9-19. F: 18.