Bluejay girls power way to win over Red Robins
The Bluejay girls stepped up their effort and execution in the later-going of each half on their way to a solid 40-29 triumph over Antigo in Friday’s home opener.
“It was a little sloppy, but a win is a win,” MHS coach Melissa Yuska said. “I don’t think we came out with the intensity we did in our first game, but our intensity increased after halftime when we made some adjustments.
“Antigo is a very hard-working group of girls. We didn’t want to get out-worked, but at the start and at other points of the game we did get out-worked. I thought we stepped it up in the second half. It wasn’t our best shooting game, but we made baskets when we needed to.”
Merrill held a 9-6 lead halfway through the first quarter, but the Red Robins went on a 7-0 run, finally stopped with a Renee Sladek drive with just :27 to go. The Jays continued to an 8-0 jump themselves, powered by a Lauren Hojan lay-up, and Sladek turning offensive rebounds into free throws and a put-back.
Hojan boosted it to 21-17 at the half with a lay-up and baby hook.
“Lauren came off the bench and did a real nice job inside,” Yuska said.
Merrill opened the second half with an 8-2 spurt, keyed by Reegan Byer passes opening up Sladek for inside drives.
Antigo scored twice late to cut it to 29-23 by the end of the third quarter.
But the Jays killed any comeback chances with an 11-1 run to open the fourth. Dawn Leland pulled a drive-and-dish twice to free up Sladek for lay-ups, then Leland swished a three from the top of the key. They closed the run with a slick Hojan-Leland-Hojan lay-up.
The Red Robins did manage to score five points in the final three minutes to cut it to 40-29.
The Jays out-rebounded Antigo as well as turning up the scoring pressure against the Red Robin zone.
“I thought we adjusted well in the second half,” Yuska said. “Our defense got a little better, too. We were more aggressive.
“We just weren’t connecting on our outside shot. That would have opened up the inside.”
Sladek finished with 16 points, 8 rebounds and 2 blocks.
“She’s much further along than I thought she’d be at this point,” Yuska said of Sladek’s comeback from extensive knee surgery.
Other contributions came from: Leland (6 p, 5 r, 5 a); Hojan (10 p, 4 r); Byer (4 p, 3 r, 3 a); Mariah Turenne (3 st).
Merrill–FG: 17-44 (39%); FT: 5-9 (56%). Antigo–FG: 11; FT: 5-8 (63%).