Shawano drops first-place battle to West De Pere

Hawks slip to 5-1 in Bay Conference

Greg Bates Leader Correspondent

When the Bay Conference schedule was released, the Shawano girls basketball players had their first big game circled: at West De Pere on Jan. 4.

Both teams opened the season by winning their first five conference games, so the stage was set for a first-place showdown.

West De Pere worked out to a 20-point lead with just six minutes remaining in the game, but Shawano didn’t go away. The girls cut the deficit to eight but could never get over that hump. West De Pere went on to take Friday’s game, 53-44.

“I was happy with our effort tonight,” Shawano coach Ryan Koenig said. “Versus some of the other games we’ve had this year, I felt like we were a team for the first time this year. I think we’re building on stuff, and it’s really inspiring to feel that way finally in the locker room. Us going on that run at the end really ensured that we can play with anybody, but we’ve got to play as a team.”

West De Pere (8-4, 6-0 Bay Conference) took a 50-30 advantage with 6:26 remaining in the second half. At that point, Phantoms coach Chris Abaray decided to pull three of his starters from the game.

Shawano (7-5, 5-1 Bay) didn’t waste any time and put the pressure on West De Pere’s second-string players. Rachel Reed hit back-to-back 3-pointers, and Kennedy Klemens drained a 3 as the Hawks were down just 50-42 with 2:18 on the clock.

Shawano then had a pair of consecutive possessions that resulted in turnovers, and Tori DePerry missed a 3-pointer, allowing the Phantoms to push their lead to 53-42 before a late long 2-pointer by Jewel Waupekenay cut the final score to single digits.

“It really came down to some turnovers,” Koenig said. “We can’t have turnovers that late in the game. We had 10 in the first half, and we said we had to have 10 or less for the game. It really comes down to taking care of every possession, getting some shots. And when we get those shots, putting them in and executing our plays.”

Reed, who scored a game-high 15 points, liked the effort exuded by her teammates, especially when the game was seemingly out of reach.

“We never give up,” Reed said. “We really pushed each other in practice this week because we knew that this would be hard. But we always have the mentality that we will never give up.”

DePerry, who finished with 11 points, said the players can be proud of their efforts because they worked together as a team.

“We can’t hang our heads, because tonight we worked as a team,” DePerry said. “I think we were more focused, and we started off strong. We’re known for starting off games pretty slow and not as focused. In practice, we talk about mental toughness for sure. We’ve got to start off like really well and do well from the beginning, otherwise we’re going to have to come back down 20 points.”

Down one early, Reed scored seven points in a three-minute span to give Shawano a 12-7 lead. West De Pere came right back with a 14-2 run fueled by a pair of 3-pointers by its leading scorer, Sydney Appleton.

A Reed basket cut Shawano’s deficit to 25-21, but a late push gave West De Pere a 33-23 halftime lead.

After DePerry got some inside touches in the early moments of the opening half, West De Pere upped its defensive presence in the post and negated easy looks.

“They were double- and triple-teaming (Tori), and we needed to just kick it out a little bit,” Koenig said. “But nobody talked, and that’s one of the things we’ve taken away from today. Defensively and offensively, we’ve got to communicate better. If your girl leaves to double, you’ve got to get to the lane. Or you’ve got to get open and get your hands up and yell so she can kick it out. Once we start doing that, our scores are going to go higher than what they were tonight.”

West De Pere (53)

Bailey Baeten 1-1 3, Sydney Appleton 2-4 13, Casey Jepson 2-2 11, Alivia McNabb 4-6 10, Genesis Eggart 0-0 6, Alexis Thomson 0-0 10.

Shawano (44)

Lydia Beyer 0-0 2, Kennedy Klemens 1-2 4, Jewel Waupekenay 0-0 2, Rachel Reed 0-0 15, Hailey Buschman 4-6 4, Tori DePerry 6-6 11, Kayla Ward 1-1 6.

West De Pere 33 20 — 53

Shawano 23 21 — 44