Bluejay girls prevail in easy and not-so-easy fashion
The Bluejay girls bounced back from a nail-biter season-opening loss with a pair of victories in an 18-hour span.
The girls routed Rhinelander 47-30 on Friday night, then embarked for Ashland, where they pulled out a 39-34 overtime win.
Merrill ran a revolving-door roster at Rhinelander, while working monster early leads of 16-2 and 30-12 in the first two quarters. The Hodags did cut it to 35-21 through three quarters before Merrill bumped it back up with a 12-9 fourth.
“It was a nice win for us,” MHS coach Melissa Yuska said. “It was nice to get a win at home and we were able to play around with a lot of line-ups. We haven’t quite found our rotation, yet.
“We wanted to see what would work for us as the season goes on. It was nice to get everybody some minutes because they’ve all been working hard in practice.
Despite the rapid-fire substitution– frequently three players deep at a time–the Jays kept up a strong pace.
“That’s the big thing,” Yuska said. ‘We’ve got to find the right mix, where when you’re subbing you don’t drop off. That (drop-off) happens at the varsity level a lot. Most teams don’t go very deep.”
Renee Sladek dominated the game early, scoring 8 points in the opening quarter and 7 in the 2nd. The Hodags’ only answer for her was to wait until Yuska subbed her out.
Sladek cut loose with 20 points, 8 rebounds and 3 steals, which she converted into break-away points. The Jays also counted on contributions from: Dawn Leland (9 p, 4 a, 4 st, 4 bl); Lindsay Krueger (5 p, 4 r, 4 st); Reegan Byer (5 p, 4 r, 4 a); Brianna LaMonica (4 r); Anna Finnell (3 r).
Merrill–FG: 20-60 (33%); FT: 3-6 (50%). Rhinelander–FG: 11; FT: 7-11 (64%).
The girls boarded a bus half a day after the Rhinelander victory, and still found a way to win a game that was nip-and-tuck throughout.
The Oredockers held slim 11-10, 17-16 and 24-23 edges after the early quarters. Merrill finally pulled into the lead in the fourth with help from a pair of Mariah Turenne treys.
“We had a four-point lead but we let them right back in,” Yuska said. “They had two shots in the last 10 seconds that could have won them the game.
“But once it got to overtime, we said, ‘It’s a new game here,’ and the girls took it and went with it.”
Merrill out-scored Ashland 8-3 in the OT, canning 6-of-9 free throws to go with a Sladek two.
“We made our free throws at the end when we needed them,” Yuska said.
“Ashland was a very aggressive and scrappy team. They out-hustled us much of the game. But after playing Friday night and driving up to Ashland for a two o’clock game, I give the girls a lot of credit. They never quit, even when Ashland went up by eight.”
Merrill was propelled by: Sladek (12 p, 6 r); Krueger (7 p, 3 r); LaMonica (7 p, 3 r); Leland (5 p, 3 r); Lauren Hojan (6 r); Turenne (6 p); Byer (4 st).
Merrill–FG: 13-41 (32%); FT: 9-16 (56%). Ashland–FG: 13; FT: 9-16 (56%).
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