Hortonville received a stiff test from New London, but managed to pull away in the second half to earn the 55-40 win and a right to play for a trip to state.
The Polar Bears took a 22-21 lead into the half where after a few defensive adjustments, they took control of the contest. Hortonville came out with a full court press and applied heavy pressure along the perimeter, which helped spark a 16-0 run to open the second half.
“We wanted to speed them up a little bit and make multiple people handle it against pressure,” said Hortonville head coach Celeste Ratka about the halftime adjustments. “I thought the girls came out really aggressive, executed really well in the press and our halfcourt buzz, so I was really pleased with their effort defensively.”
The game see-sawed back and forth in the first half, but the team was able to find a rhythm offensively in the second half.
“The first half, offensively, we were taking shots that were a little quick and out of rhythm, we were rushing things a little bit, and I think we settled in during the second half,” coach Ratka assessed. “I think shooting the ball better helps that. Also, we got some turnovers and some easy baskets to kind of relax us a little bit, so that was important.”
New London wouldn’t go away quietly, as the Bulldogs managed a run of their own, led by Leah Porath, who finished her high school career with a game-high 17 points. Hortonville’s lead would dwindle to five after swelling to 17, but the Polar Bears never allowed New London to jump out in front. Olivia Griesbach provided key contributions for Hortonville, scoring 16 on the night to lead the team, well above her average of six points a game. Shay Frederick hit for 12 and Lexi Walter added 11.
Looking ahead, playing in the sectional final is something this Polar Bear team envisioned when they set out for the opening round of regionals.
“I’m very confident in this team and I think the kids kind of feed off of that energy as well, but you do the best you can and live with any result,” said Ratka. “That’s what I’ve been trying to talk to these girls all year. It’s not about the results, it’s about how you go about your business and I feel like we’ve worked extremely hard to get to this point, so I’m just really pleased and happy for them.”
Hortonville will play Menominee Saturday afternoon at 1:00 p.m. from Eau Claire North High School.