EagleHerald Sports Writer
MARINETTE—A fired up Marinette girls basketball team took the court hungry to snap a 12-game losing streak and appeared poised to pull off the upset, as the Marines offense stifled the Luxemburg-Casco offense throughout the first half to give Marinette a nine-point advantage at halftime. However, the Marines could not bottle up the Spartans forever as Taylor Thiry and Lauren Adams exploded for a combined 25 points in the second half to hand the Marines a 53-40 defeat in Friday’s North Eastern Conference clash.
Marinette (0-7 NEC, 0-10 overall) disrupted Luxemburg-Casco’s offensive rhythm from the game’s opening tip, swarming to the ball, collapsing in on the paint and closing in with lighting quickness on Spartan shooters. Sam Pieper dropped 12 points with Amara Smalls and Matti Renikow each adding two while Jordan Boettcher tacked on three to fuel the Marines to a 20-11 lead at halftime.
Down to only eight players due to injuries, Marinette was unable to maintain its energy level as the second half wore on and the Spartans (6-3 NEC, 6-4 overall) took advantage, giving the ball to Taylor Thiry and letting the All-NEC performer go to work down low where she scored eight points while adding six more via free throws to help L-C outscore Marinette by a 42-20 margin after halftime.
“We came out with energy and played very well in the first quarter. We executed our offense, the shots were falling and 40 points is more than double than what we have been scoring for the past few games, so there’s definite improvement there,” Marinette head coach Zac Barker said. “I loved the intensity that our players showed tonight but with us missing a few players, some of the girls had to step up and play more minutes and that may have contributed to them getting a little tired towards the end of the game. Every player on our team gave it everything they had and as a coach that’s all you can ask for”.
The Marines opened the game in a 3-0 hole before Pieper battled through contact for a layup before drilling a 3-pointer from the right corner that put Marinette ahead by two.
After L-C knotted matters up at 9-9 off a Maggie Hanmann triple, Pieper drove towards the basket and drew the foul before knocking down the ensuing free throws to put the Marines back on top by two and forced the Spartans to call a timeout with 9:07 left in the first half.
With Marinette’s defense hauling in rebound after rebound, its offense continued to stay hot as Smalls knocked down a layup and Boettcher sank a midrange jumper that made it a 15-9 score in the Marines’ favor. Pieper was then fouled on a 3-point attempt and proceeded to swish all three of her free throws before a basket from Adams helped the Spartans cut Marinette’s lead to seven. A pair of Boettcher free throws gave the Marines the 20-11 advantage, and Marinette held L-C scoreless through the half’s final 2:42 to take the nine point lead at halftime.
A trey from Smalls ensured that the Marines began the second half on a high note but the Spartans chipped away at Marinette’s lead with a long two-pointer from Lidia Stahl while Thiry added back-to-back layups and Adams poked the ball away from Hannah Chenier for an easy transition bucket that made it a 23-19 game.
Marinette answered back with a layup from Renikow while Pieper stroked a triple to get the Marines’ lead back to seven, but a pair of free throws from Thiry ignited a 10-0 L-C run that gave the Spartans a five-point cushion.
Boettcher cut Marinette’s deficit to three with layup but L-C countered with a 3-point bomb from Adams, who also tacked on a layup and a free throw to make it a 41-30 game with 8:16 left on the clock.
“Once we started to get tired 44 (Thiry) was able to get to the hoop on us and get some easy put backs, and Lauren Adams is a really good shooter too and she came on in the second half,” Barker said. “I don’t think our fatigued mattered in terms of the loss, but I do think their good players were able to capitalize once we got tired. They’re skilled players and they hit some more shots than us tonight, but in terms of our gameplan there’s nothing that I’d really change”.
The Marines continued to battle back with baskets from Chenier and Renikow until a triple from Stahl made it a 10-point Spartans lead. Another layup from Boettcher gave way to a quick 6-0 run by L-C that Boettcher cut off with a put back to make it a 49-38 game with 3:26 remaining.
Each team’s defense snuffed out the other’s possession until Thiry got the lid off the basket with a layup and Adams added one final insurance bucket to give the Spartans a late 53-38 lead. Pieper scored on a layup with 37.1 seconds left to play but the Marines were unable to get the ball back as L-C simply dribbled out the game’s waning seconds to secure the victory.
Even in defeat, Barker said his team’s performance against the Spartans was reason for encouragement.
“This game is a good step because it gives our players the confidence to see that they can compete against the better teams in our conference. We were in this game tonight and there’s a lot of good things that came out of it,” he said. “As cliché as it is, sometimes the scoreboard doesn’t determine if it’s a successful night because I believe everyone gave everything they had and our kids came to play”.
Pieper led the Marines with 17 points while Boettcher backed her up with 12, eight of which came in the second half and both players drew praise from their head coach after the game.
“Tonight, Jordan stepped up huge for us on offense and I liked to see how hard she was going. She noticed that things were breaking down up top, we were getting panicked and we turning the ball over and she realized that once she got the ball she need to take it to the hoop,” Barker said. “Sam’s shot was on tonight and she was running a lot of our offense and I think those two really stepped up for us tonight”.
Thiry was L-C’s top scorer with 16 points with Adams chipping in 13 and Lily Grese adding nine.
Marinette is back on the court tonight for another NEC contest against Clintonville (3-6 NEC, 3-8 overall). The game tips off at 7 p.m.
LUXEMBURG-CASCO (53)—Thiry 16, Adams 13, Grese 9, Wech 8, Stahl 5, Neubert 2; FTs: 11-19.
MARINETTE (40)—Pieper 17, Boettcher 12. Smalls 5, Renikow 4, Chenier 2; FTs: 7-7.