Junior Torie Loppnow, of Waterford, muscles up a shot amid pressure from Union Grove’s Paige Cotton in the second half of a Jan. 31 Southern Lakes Conference contest (Michael Stefanich Jr./Southern Lakes Newspapers).

Teams fell into tie for 1st

By Jason Arndt
Staff Writer

Waterford’s Katie Rohner didn’t have an easy first half during a Jan. 31 Southern Lakes Conference meeting with visiting Union Grove.

But thanks to some encouragement from a senior teammate, and a halftime adjustment, she was able to find a way to help the Wolverines defeat the Broncos 58-51 and avenge an early season loss at Union Grove.

Rohner, a senior, was held to two points entering halftime before exploding with 14 in the second half, including a decisive 3-pointer to pull Waterford ahead 49-48 with 3:45 left in regulation.

Rohner credited Mackenzie Stiewe for offering assurances to her.

“My teammate Mackenzie Stiewe just never gave up on me, she was like ‘Keep shooting, you are a great shooter’ and it just got me going,” she recalled.

Waterford coach Dena Brechtl, who concurred with Rohner on Stiewe’s vocal leadership, moved Rohner to point guard in the second half to open up more scoring opportunities for her.

Tight opening frame
Rohner, like most Waterford shooters, saw limited scoring opportunities in the first half, as the Broncos clamped down on defense.

The Broncos opened with a 6-0 edge and kept the Wolverines scoreless for more than seven minutes until sophomore Raelynn Barwick converted 2 of 3 free throws after drawing a personal foul at 10:25 in the first half.

Stiewe, meanwhile, pulled the contest in Waterford’s favor at 7-6 after making a 3-pointer followed by a layup.

However, after both teams traded points multiple times, the Broncos went on a 6-0 run, sparked by a bucket by senior Megan Barber followed by baskets from freshmen Ava Domagalski and Sophia Rampulla and pulled ahead 18-13.

Waterford sophomore Gigi Kuepper ended the half with a free throw to cut the Grove lead to 18-14 entering intermission.

“I thought both teams started out slow and tight,” Broncos coach Rob Domagalski said. “Both teams were locking down on defense at the beginning of the game and really limiting good shots.”

Grove’s lead vanishes
The Broncos saw their four-point lead diminish in the second half after the Wolverines went on a 12-0 run to pull ahead 33-25.

Union Grove, however, responded with a 13-5 stretch to put the contest at a 38-38 stalemate with 7:21 left in regulation.

Rampulla, who tallied eight of the Broncos’ 15 points in the stretch, finished with 16 to match Rohner.

Rohner answered, making her first of two go-ahead 3-pointers, which put Waterford ahead 41-38.

The teams swapped baskets before Union Grove sophomore Paige Cotton drained a 3-pointer to pull the contest even at 43-43.

Waterford senior Annie Benavides responded with basket, but Cotton again, made a shot beyond the perimeter and gave Union Grove its final lead at 48-46 with 4:15 left.

From there, the Wolverines took control, thanks to back-to-back 3-pointers from Rohner and Stiewe.

Stiewe went 4-for-5 from field goal range and finished with 11 points along with a game-high nine boards.

Brechtl commended Stiewe for contributing beyond the stat sheet.

“She played like a senior. She was our leader on the floor, constantly talking to everybody,” she said. “Any young kid that came in, she was reminding them what we were doing.”

As for Rohner, who injured her ankle during the last meeting with Union Grove on Dec. 12, Brechtl believes she regained some composure in the second half.

“She is such a clutch player, even if she got rattled early in the game, she can always find a way to gather herself back and stick with what we need to be doing,” she said.

Domagalski admits the four-point halftime lead was a little too close for his team and noted the Broncos committed multiple turnovers in the second half.

“It would have been a lot easier for us at halftime going in with a bigger lead,” he said.

Union Grove’s Angela Slattery, a junior, finished with 11 points.

Benavides tallied 11 points.

Teams fall into 3-way tie for 1st
Union Grove and Waterford, meanwhile, fell into a three-way tie for first place at 7-3 with Lake Geneva Badger after Tuesday’s slate of Southern Lakes Conference games.

The Broncos, who played Badger, lost 57-34 to drop their third consecutive game and stand 13-4 overall.

Waterford (10-7 overall) fell to visiting Elkhorn 53-50.

Both teams play on the road Friday with Waterford facing Westosha Central and Union Grove heading to Wilmot.