Merrill girls win battle, but lose Sladek
In the midst of blowing out Wausau East 41-23 last Tuesday, the Bluejay girls suffered a huge loss of their own when Renee Sladek kissed her season goodbye due to an ACL knee injury.
Sladek, the leading scorer and rebounder in the Valley up to the previous week, landed awkwardly after being bumped on a drive to the basket.
“The loss of Renee is obviously very disappointing,” MHS coach Melissa Yuska said. “Renee is just a great kid, and hard worker, and she puts a lot of time into her game.
“There isn’t a doubt in my mind that she’s the best player in the conference. I’ve seen all the teams this year and other coaches have told me that, too.
“But she’s a tough kid. She’ll get through this. I think she’ll come out of it better as a person and as a player.”
Merrill had built a quick 13-2 lead before the injury, then had to play without Sladek.
“It was like the air went out of the gym,” Yuska said. “You just felt terrible for her. Last year she was out eight weeks with an ankle sprain. She walked off the court and when I saw her in the training room, it was huge. When I heard her (crying out), I thought, ‘This is not good.’ ”
The game wasn’t going to end over the mishap that Yuska termed “an unfortunate injury, not anybody’s fault.” That meant the MHS girls had to quickly get their heads aligned.
“I was very proud of the girls,” Yuska said. “It takes a lot to stay in the game mentally when you see a teammate go down.
“The girls are used to having Renee out there pretty much all 32 minutes of the game. I’m confident the girls will step up. They’re hard workers and they’re competitive. There’s still a lot of season left. The girls will continue to fight.”
The girls pushed the lead to 18-4 on a long Brianna LaMonica jumper, but East made a mini-run back within 22-10 at halftime.
The Jays scored the first six points of the second half with a Dawn Leland feeding a pair of Lindsay Krueger lay-ups, and a Leland put-back. But the Lumberjacks gradually cut the difference to 32-19, substituting liberally in an attempt to wear out the home team. Merrill was down to seven players between the Sladek injury and illness.
East hung within 36-23 with 3:15 left in the contest, but Merrill would score the final five points.
The Jays used a balanced effort, led by Lauren Hojan (5 p, 9 r, 3 st, 4 bl), Krueger (8 p, 6 r, 4 a), LaMonica (10 p, 7 r), Leland (4 p, 4 r, 7 a, 2 bl) and Reegan Byer (6 p, 6 r). Sladek offered 6 points and 4 rebounds in just over 6 minutes.
Merrill–FG: 14-41 (34%); FT: 13-24 (54%). Wausau East–FG: 8; FT: 6-14 (43%).
Merrill’s first full game without Sladek didn’t go as well as the team hoped it would.
Host Marshfield grabbed a 22-14 lead, pushed it to 35-18 by halftime, edged up 50-29 through the third and closed out a 66-39 win. The Tigers hit 6 treys and 10-of-11 free throws.
“Marshfield is a good team, but not 27 points better,” Yusak said. “Everybody was trying to step up but it’s going to take some time to get some continuity . I was proud they played hard, but we just didn’t execute defensively.”
Bluejay offerings came from: Lamonica 9 p, 4 r); Krueger (7 p, 6 r); Anna Finnell (5 p, 4 r, 2 bl); Byer (8 p, 3 r); Leland (3 p, 3 a, 3 bl); Hojan (4 p, 4 r); and Mariah Turenne (3 p).
Merrill–FG: 14-43 (33%); FT: 7-12 (58%). Marshfield–FG: 25; FT: 10-11 (91%).
Merrill (8-5 overall) is sitting at 4-2 in the WVC, trailing SPASH (5-1) and Wausau West (5-2) and tied with Everest. Marshfield improved to 3-3.
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