Three Lady Toppers reach double figures in rout

Catholic Central junior Emma Klein soars to the hoop for a layup during the first half Tuesday night. Klein finished with 12 points and four assists. (Mike Ramczyk/SLN)


By Mike Ramczyk

BURLINGTON – Losing can get old in a hurry.

Just ask the Catholic Central girls varsity basketball squad.

The Lady Toppers experienced a demoralizing January and February, losing eight of nine games and their last five to finish the season against the larger schools in the Metro Classic Conference.

In fact, you would have to go back to Jan. 24 to find the last Topper win.

But the Catholic Central coaches preach postseason for a reason, since the Toppers get to finally play schools their own size, and the patience paid off Tuesday night in a WIAA Division 5 regional opener.

The seventh-seeded and host Toppers toyed with the much shorter and overmatched No. 10 Stockbridge Indians, dominating early and often en route to a 60-25 blowout victory.

Catholic Central improved to 7-16 and advances to play No. 2 Sheboygan Lutheran (14-7) Friday.

“It felt really good to win, and it was a confidence boost since we lost so many in a row,” said junior Erin Schwenn, who scored eight points. “Coming into the game, we knew this win would be good for us.”

First-year coach Joe Spierenburg said the girls needed a win to get right, since the last two months have been very taxing on their confidence. He was happy the Toppers put it all together Tuesday.

“We’ve had stretches where we played well, but we just didn’t come out on top,” Spierenburg said. “Give all the credit to the girls. We have a good group of girls that stay positive day in and day out. They love the game of basketball, and it shows. It’s tough when you play some tough competition during the season. They stayed with it, and they could fold and throw in the towel after so many losses.”

Senior Mikelle Miles dominated with her physical style Tuesday, scoring 13 points and grabbing nine rebounds. (Mike Ramczyk/SLN)

Firing out of the gate

The Toppers jumped out to a 20-4 lead and never looked back, opening a 30-11 halftime advantage.

Senior Mikelle Miles dominated the paint, scoring 13 points and hauling in nine rebounds. Emma Klein added 12 points on 6-of-9 shooting and four assists. She and twin sister Elizabeth Klein, who added 10 points and three assists, were able to exploit the Indians’ 2-1-2 zone, getting the ball in the paint for easy buckets.

The Toppers moved the ball well against the zone and were able to find outside shooters like Schwenn, who knocked down two 3-pointers.

Catholic Central broke the game wide open with an 11-2 run to open the second half, highlighted by Miles inside, senior Emily Swanson outside and the Kleins jumping passing lanes and scoring on fast-break layups.

The Toppers led by as many as 30 midway through the second half, and all 11 girls played and scored. Without any freshmen or a junior varsity team, Spierenburg said it was crucial to get his young girls some positive minutes.

“Tonight was definitely a confidence boost,” Spierenburg said. “We got a lot of turnovers early on, and we were able to open it up and it led to layups. We worked extremely hard this year against teams more on our level like Heritage Christian and Williams Bay. Those games allowed us to test our zone offense. We do a good job of being patient and making good basketball plays.”


Everyone gets into the act

Senior Jenny Rebollar and sophomores Abi Sheehan and Isabelle Phillips notched rare baskets late in

the game, igniting standing ovations from the bench and the small, yet loud crowd.

Catholic Central shot 56 percent from the field. Stockbridge connected on a mind-boggling 88

Erin Schwenn shows her disapproval of a call Tuesday. (Mike Ramczyk/SLN)

percent of its shots, but only hit eight of nine for the game.

The suffocating Toppers’ defense often stole the ball before the Indians could get set in the half court and didn’t allow a shot.

It was a welcome game where Catholic Central could have some fun after nearly two months of struggles. Emma Klein said the losses only made the team stronger.

“Playing against such tough competition really helps us for the postseason,” Emma Klein said. “Even if we don’t get a higher seed, we still have a good chance to win.”

Schwenn said the Toppers were able to push the ball in transition, and they prefer playing against a zone.

“Erin played really well for us,” Spierenburg said. “She had a concussion early on, and she had bronchitis, so she’s had a roller-coaster year. When she’s played, she’s played pretty well for us. She understands the game and sees the floor pretty well.”


Tall Sheboygan team poses greater challenge

Catholic Central senior Emily Swanson (right) hustles for a loose ball Tuesday. (Mike Ramczyk/SLN)

While Miles was able to score over the shorter Indians, Sheboygan Lutheran will pose a much taller challenge Friday in a regional semifinal.

Lutheran boasts a front line that goes 6-foot-1, 6-foot-1 and 5-11, so Spierenburg said the team will have to rebound and get out in transition.

“We have to play really well,” Spierenburg said. “Lutheran finished in the middle of their conference. They’re big, so we’ll really have to execute and take advantage of transition opportunities and see what they do. They play zone and man, and I think we match up better against man.”

Can the Lady Toppers pull off the upset Friday night?

“If we really push the ball and box out, I think we have a really good chance to win,” Emma Klein said.

Check out and next week’s Burlington Standard Press for more on the Lady Toppers and other area playoff action.