DESHLER — What started out as a close first half battle against the Deshler Dragons and the Wildcats of Superior quickly turned into a one-sided game Tuesday night.
The Wildcats (15-2) broke away after halftime, outscoring the Dragons 16-2 in the third quarter on the way to a 51-30 victory.
“One of our focuses this game was to win the first four minutes of every quarter. We ended up splitting in the first half, and in the second, we won first four minutes of the third and fourth quarter 19-2 combined,” said Wildcats head coach Jake Nannen.
“So if we continue to focus coming out of the gates hot with our defensive intensity and putting them in a corner early, we feel like we can put ourselves in a pretty good position every game.”
The Dragons (10-5) established an early lead on baskets from senior Taylor Sieber and sophomore Jacilyne Peterson to take a 6-2 lead.
Superior answered with an 8-0 run, getting five points from senior Ella Gardner and forcing five turnovers.
Junior Stormi Capek got the final bucket of the opening quarter, but the Dragons were behind on the scoreboard.
The Wildcats built a 22-14 lead in the second frame, getting a pair of easy buckets from sophomore Sadie Cornell off of steals on the defensive end of the ball.
“One thing we talk about frequently is our defense leading to offense. When we feel like our defensive energy is elite and we’re being disruptive in the passing lanes, we feel like that can really turn into some easy points offensively for us,” Nannen said.
Senior Laci Kirchhoff and sophomore Halle Bargen each knocked down treys on the assist from sophomore Faith Butler for the Wildcats.
The Dragons fought back, getting six points from junior Allie Viselmeyer to cut into the Wildcat lead. A free throw from Butler gave the Wildcats a 23-18 halftime lead.
Superior scored the first 11 points in the third quarter on three layups from Gardner and five points from Cornell. The Wildcats held the Dragons scoreless in the first seven minutes of the second half.
Deshler’s lone basket came with under a minute left to play on a bucket from Sieber. The Wildcats had a commanding 39-20 lead heading to the fourth.
“We don’t have a lot of height and we knew we needed to tighten up our inside game on defense, but what we do have down there is a lot of toughness and a lot of grit, and those girls love being physical,” Nannen said. “So what we don’t necessarily have in height we make up for in toughness which has really helped us down low and it showed tonight.”
Kirchhoff and Cornell each drained a 3-point field goal to start the fourth quarter, extending the Wildcat lead to 45-20.
The Dragons put together an 8-2 run midway through the final quarter, with senior Mallory Kleen going 4-for-4 from the free throw line, as a last-ditch effort.
“With the way we play defense, we hope to wear teams down as the game goes on and hopefully go on a big run just to kind of seal the deal,” said Nannen. “We know that Kleen and Schardt can handle the ball really well, but we thought we could be disruptive in the half court.
“Deshler has a lot of good sets. They have some bigs inside that can score it, but if we can be disruptive on the perimeter and anticipate those passes we feel like we have a chance in every game.”
The Wildcats were led by Cornell and Gardner, who each scored 17 in the win.
Sieber scored eight for the Dragons and Vieselmeyer added seven. Peterson snagged nine rebounds in the contest.
SUP (15-2).........10 13 16 12 — 51
DESH (10-5)...........8 10 2 10 — 30
Sadie Cornell 17, Ella Gardner 17, Halle Bargen 6, Laci Kirchhoff 6, Lilly Edwards 2, Ava Kirchhoff 2, Faith Butler 1.
Taylor Sieber 8, Allie Vieselmeyer 7, Brook Sasse 5, Mallory Kleen 4, Stormi Capek 2, Reese Harms 2, Jacilyne Peterson 2.
Boys: Superior 40, Deshler 38
Superior let Gavin Nash have his points for Deshler and countered with a balanced offensive effort to snap a 14-game losing streak.
The Wildcats (2-14) overcame a scoreless second quarter and poured in 31 points in the second half to stun the Dragons (7-7).
Jacob Meyer led Superior’s effort with 15 points. Colten Butler added eight and Tanner Theis seven.
Nash led all scorers for Deshler with 31 points.