Mosinee pulls out nailbiter to end Bluejays’ season
The Merrill girls basketball team fell behind 16-10 in last Friday’s home WIAA regional opener with Mosinee, and their comeback chances were definitely reduced by the January loss of top player Renee Sladek, a junior.
That doesn’t mean the Bluejays had any intention of rolling over.
They immediately turned their game up several notches, took an 18-16 lead just two minutes later, and the battle was on.
Mosinee would eventually pull out a 38-36 victory for the right to get pummeled by New London the next night. The Bulldogs, who improved to 24-0 on the season, eliminated Mosinee 56-34.
“It was a tough one to lose,” MHS coach Melissa Yuska said. “You hate to see your season end that way. We felt we were the better team, but unfortunately it wasn’t our night. The girls played hard. Mosinee played hard, too.”
Lindsay Krueger put back a missed free throw, Reegan Byer inbounded to Anna Finnell for an easy basket and Morgan Wilde drained a three to put Merrill up in the early stages of the second quarter. Mariah Turenne hit a long jumper with :19 left in the half for a 20-18 lead and Byer preserved it with a steal at the buzzer.
The Jays increased their edge to 28-25 in the third on a Finnell layup and Byer jumper, but Mosinee stormed back, taking a 30-28 lead when Macee Best hit her third three.
Turenne swished a pair of free throws with 2:36 to go for a 33-32 MHS edge, but an offensive rebound led to a 34-33 Mosinee lead with 1:15 left, and the visitors broke the Merrill full-court press for a lay-up with :25 remaining, then made 1-of-2 free throws after rebounding a missed front end of the bonus for a 37-33 lead. Dawn Leland nailed a three-pointer with 8 seconds to go to give Merrill a chance, but a single Mosinee foul shot and Leland half-court miss ended it.
Pacing the Bluejays in the Mosinee game were: Byer (4 p, 5 r, 4 a, 3 st); Finnell (12 p, 4 r); Turenne (10 p, 4 r) Dawn Leland (5 p, 4 st, 2 bl); Wilde (4 p); Brianna LaMonica (3 r); and Krueger (3 st).
Merrill–FG: 13-48 (27%); FT: 7-11 (58%). Mosinee–FG: 15; FT: 4-13 (31%).
Merrill finished with a 10-12 overall record. The Jays ended up in 5th place in the Valley at 5-7, while SPASH and Wausau West tied for 1st at 10-2.
“It was definitely an up-and-down season,” Yuska said. “We started off very strong, but then had some bumps in the road and didn’t finish as well as we would have liked.
“With Renee going down, it was tough. We had to make adjustments. Nobody sees it coming. It definitely changed the dynamic of our team. I had to miss some time (with a back surgery) but Charlie (Johnson) and Bruce (English) did a great job, so that didn’t hurt too much.
“We had three really nice seniors. Lindsay (Krueger) came back and we were glad. She’s a hard worker and always keeps you laughing. Brianna (LaMonica) started off the year shooting really well. She’s a hard worker and improved her defense this year. Kendra (Andreska) is the type of kid that always worked hard. She didn’t get the same minutes as others, but never complained. Those are three great kids–great people–and they will be missed.”
A strong factor in next year’s equation will be the return of Sladek.
“She’s already in therapy,” Yuska said. “She’s working hard. She misses (Basketball) When you get injured it makes you realize what you missed. She’ll come back stronger; I don’t doubt that at all.”
That’s just the start.
“We are fortunate that we will have a lot coming back,” Yuska said. “That junior class is a very talented class. We’re lucky having them play basketball.
“Reegan is a strong defender and when we changed up our offense, she scored more, too. Dawn will get more opportunity for scoring next year. Lauren (Hojan) really stepped up at times. Morgan (Wilde) got some good experience.”
Fast and athletic Mandy Vonderheid, and strong Aubrey Wardall were juniors that were injured this year. Sophomores Turenne and Morgan Marnholtz provided valuable minutes and the freshman Finnell became a major player in Sladek’s absence.
“Anna really had some nice games in the second half of the season,” Yuska said. “Mariah got some good experience.
“Now we hope all the kids put in the time in the summer in the gym and come back better.”
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