EagleHerald Sports Writer
MARINETTE—The season tipped off on the wrong foot for the Marinette girls basketball team, with a rusty-looking Marines team falling into an early hole that it could not dig itself out of in a 53-30 loss to North Eastern Conference rival Fox Valley Lutheran on Tuesday.
With only a week of practice under its belt, Marinette appeared out of sync throughout much of first half. The Marines had difficulty with their ball handling and passing, resulting in plenty of turnovers that FVL was able to convert into points and a 28-10 halftime advantage. The Marines came out of the locker room refocused in the second half, as Sam Pieper poured in 12 points to help Marinette cut its deficit to 18 but time ran out on the Marines’ comeback as FVL used a late 3-pointer to ice the game with less than a minute to play.
“The things we were looking for the team to do is show effort and execute and effort was there tonight but the execution wasn’t in the beginning,” Marinette head coach Zac Barker said. “We cleaned that up a little bit throughout the game but in terms of execution, what can you expect with only a week of practice? I was proud of how hard we battled and I thought we crashed the boards very well tonight. It was a little sloppy but the effort was there throughout the game, which was good to see”.
Marinette found itself down early after FVL’s Emily Jaenke corralled a rebound and nailed a floater and Madison Jacobsen canned a triple to make it a 5-0 game. The Foxes tacked on two free throws before the Marines responded with a layup from Matti Renikow, a free throw by Peiper and jumper by Hannah Chenier that cut FVL’s advantage to two.
A layup off a back-door cut and a pair of Jaenke free throws gave FVL a six-point cushion before Amara Smalls scooped up a rebound off a Cheneir miss and converted the putback to make it a 11-7 game.
FVL used a 13-0 run to take a 17-point lead before a pair of free throws by Alli Kacalo halted the Foxes’ momentum. Olivia Krahn sank and basket and converted the and-one attempt to push FVL’s lead to 19 before a Cheneir free throw made it 28-10 at halftime.
While the first half was not the ideal showing, Barker said once Marinette’s offense started to find its rhythm in the second half, the team began to knock off some rust.
“We got some offensive opportunities in the second half and we were able to get some turnovers to generate offense,” he said. “We got to the free-throw line a little bit more in the second half but it was just too little, too late. In the beginning of the season your offense isn’t going to be where you want it to be”.
The Marines kicked off the second half on the attack with Pieper knocking down a pair of free throws but an ensuing 10-0 run by the Foxes made it a 38-12 affair. Marinette battled back as Pieper fought through contact for a layup while Cheneir knocked down a contested jumper that forced an FVL timeout.
A bucket by Alayna Feidt gave FVL a 24-point advantage before Renikow drove into the teeth of the Foxes’ defense for a layup that forced another FVL timeout. The Marines continued to score after Kacalo took an inbounds pass from Pieper for an easy basket and Cheneir hit a layup that made it a 40-23 game with 8:15 left to play.
The two teams traded 3-pointers as Jaenke and Pieper each knocked down triples before a free throw by Lydia Feidt and a layup from Alayna Feidt gave the Foxes a 20-point lead with 5:00 remaining.
The Marines continued to chip away after Jordan Boettcher sank a layup off an inbounds pass while Pieper drilled a pair of free-throws, but a late Foxes bucket followed by another 3-pointer by Jaenke put FVL up by 23 with under a minute to play, sealing the victory.
Barker was quick to heap praise onto his seniors for their leadership and strong play, even under less-than-ideal circumstances.
“I was very proud of our seniors and they all contributed for us tonight. Matti and Sam did a very good job of attacking and they were getting into the paint a lot. Amara is starting to contribute for us on the defensive end and both Jordan and Jamie did a very good job on the boards. Jordan is our leader on the court, talking to everybody and putting them in the right spots and it hurt us in the first half to have her in foul trouble”.
While the result was not a Marine victory, the feeling around the program is still one of positivity.
“There are some positives to take from tonight’s game,” Barker said. “The score isn’t where we want it but we can build on what we displayed tonight. Bottom line is that’s (FVL) a talented team that’s very well coached. They executed and it was tough to compete tonight.”
Pieper led the Marines with 13 points, Chenier backed her up with five, Renikow and Kacalo each chipped in four while Boettcher and Smalls both added two. Jaenke was FVL’s top scorer with 14 points while Riley Pink and Alayna Feidt each had eight.
The Marines hit the road for their next game, an NEC clash against Luxemburg-Casco, on Tuesday. The game tips off at 7 p.m.
MARINETTE (30)—Chenier 13, Chenier 5, Renikow 4, Kacalo 4, Smalls 2, Boettcher 2; FTs: 9-13.
FOX VALLEY LUTHERAN (53)—Jaenke 14, A. Feidt 8, Pink 8, Otto 6, L. Feidt 5, Loberger 4, Charron 3, Ziegler 3, Krahn 2; FTs: 12-18.