Rohner averaging 26 in playoffs

Waterford poses with its regional title plaque Saturday night at Union Grove. (Rick Benavides/SLN)

 

By Tim Wester

Sports Correspondent

Minutes after upsetting rival Union Grove, the Waterford girls basketball team proudly carried its WIAA regional championship plaque over to their student section and led a boisterous chant of “We believe that we will win.”

The sixth-seeded Wolverines, who struggled through the regular season with a sub.-500 record, have transformed into a different team in the postseason, playing with confidence, precision, and newly-found poise.

Waterford displayed all these attributes from the opening tip and never wavered, en route to a 51-45 victory at second-seeded and four-time defending Southern Lakes Conference champion Union Grove Saturday night.

Sophomore guard Katie Rohner had a game-high 26 points, while center Kathleen Fitzgerald added 14 to propel Waterford into the sectional semifinals against top-seeded Jefferson Thursday at Fort Atkinson High School.

“We don’t talk about the regular season anymore because we are in a new season,” Waterford coach Dena Brechtl said. “And that’s really been our approach to focus on going 1-0, 2-0 and then 3-0 and playing hard 36 minutes and that’s exactly what we did tonight.”

Forgetting the regular season wasn’t as easy for Union Grove, which breezed through conference play, including two victories against Waterford, before struggling in the regional finals for a second straight season.

“I’m pretty upset because we worked really hard to get where we were and it’s sad to see it end,” Union Grove senior and the school’s all-time leading scorer Brooklyn Bull said. “Four years I’ve been playing high school basketball, and I didn’t think it was going to end tonight.”

The rest of the Union Grove players and the home fans were just as disappointed after the Broncos were upset in the postseason for a second straight year. Last season Milton stunned the top-seeded Broncos in the regional finals.

“It was really hard having to watch Waterford celebrate on our floor,” Union Grove coach Rob Domagalski said. “It’s the second year in a row losing at home and this game, we seemed to be a little tight and allowed Waterford to be the aggressor.

 

Rohner starts strong for second straight night

Rohner led the Wolverine aggression early with six points to help the Wolverines grab a 10-6 lead midway through the first half.

The Broncos eventually drew even at 20 behind consecutive 3-pointers from Alyssa Kus and Baylie Weis late in the first half.

Wolverine guard Maddy Anderson then rattled in a 3-pointer from the left elbow with just under 8 seconds left to help give her team a 25-22 lead at halftime.

“I had that feeling going into this game that you know you are going to win or do great,” said Rohner, who had 14 of her 26 in the first half. “And that’s how we came out and that’s how I played.”

The Broncos finally found a little confidence of their own early in the second half, beating the Wolverine guards down the court with easy layups to grab a 32-30 lead.

With momentum slipping away, Rohner answered with consecutive baskets to help ignite a 9-1 run and lead 39-33.

“After they took the lead, we called a timeout just to remind the team what we talked about at halftime was making sure we had two girls get back defensively after misses,” Brechtl said. “We kind of forgot for a time there, but once we stopped their transition and got two players back, we did better.”

The Wolverines opened up a nine-point lead late in the second half before the Broncos extended their trapping defense to help set up a Kus layup to cut it to 45-40 with 1:47 left. Waterford regrouped once again and never let the Grove get closer than four the rest of the way to seal the upset victory.

“This is a tough loss for us after all that we accomplished this year,” Domagalski said. “But it’s over and congratulations to Waterford for playing a great game.”

The new season continues for the Wolverines.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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