EagleHerald Sports Editor
MENOMINEE—Alaina Herzog knew what it would take for the Gillett girls basketball team to upset Menominee on its home court.
“Man up and play hard defense,” the senior forward said.
The Tigers heeded her words.
Like a mosquito on a warm summer’s night, Gillett simply refused to go away in Monday’s non-conference game against the Maroons, keeping the score close through three quarters before snatching the lead late in the fourth quarter for a 46-42 victory.
“We talked at halftime that we just needed to hang around and get a few breaks,” Gillett coach Gary Regal said. “We thought that we could attack the weak side and get some layups, which we did. We probably could have had a few more but we’ll take what we can get. I thought we defended well tonight. We weren’t reaching or anything.”
Gillett (2-1 Marinette and Oconto Conference, 5-3 overall) battled back from a five-point deficit as the fourth quarter began with Carleigh Kaczmarek scoring four points before Naomi Anker sank a pair of free throws to give the Tigers their first lead of the night with five minutes left on the clock.
“I thought we put good pressure on Gillett. We tried to create some turnovers out of our zone defense and speed them up and for the most part we did a good job,” Menominee coach Lucas Chouinard said. “We have to do a better job at rotations and getting back and covering people at full speed so we can get some deflections.”
Macy Franti knocked down a mid-range jumper to put Gillett ahead by three before layups by Kennedy Olson and Rylee Doyle gave the Maroons (4-3) a one-point edge.
The Tigers regained the lead after Herzog picked off a pass intended for Olson and before dishing to Cheyenne Krueger for the go-ahead bucket, but Menominee managed to knot the score up at 40 thanks to a basket by Olson.
Herzog poured in the go-ahead bucket as the Tigers regained the lead with just over one minute to play. Kaczmarek dribbled 31 seconds off the block before Madison Derusha intentionally fouled her with 42.8 seconds remaining. Kaczmarek sank one of two free throws to make it a three-point game before finding herself back at the charity stripe after being fouled by Doyle on a rebound. Two free throws later, Gillett held a five-point advantage with just 25 ticks left on the clock.
As she had all game, Olson took charge for Menominee and powered her way through traffic for a layup and a foul, but she was unable to convert the ensuing free throw as the Maroons’ deficit remained at three with 12 seconds remaining.
With 10 seconds to go, Olson fouled Kaczmarek, who put the game on ice with another free throw before Olson’s last-second 3-point attempt fell short as time expired.
Kaczmarek was five-of-seven on free throw attempts, including three straight to end the game.
“She’s a girl that works every night at shooting after practice so I’m happy for her success tonight,” Regal said.
Fouls, or lack thereof, were integral in Gillett’s success against the Maroons, with the Tigers committing only two fouls all game, none of which occurred after halftime.
Conversely, Menominee was whistled for 10 penalties and attempted just five free throws, converting three of them, compared to a 9-of-15 night for the Tigers.
“We have to be more disciplined both in terms of individuals and the team,” Chouinard said. “When referees call the game a certain way we need to be able to adjust to that and we didn’t do a good job of that tonight. We continued to foul at a high rate, which gave Gillett some chances at the free throw line. Credit them for cashing in tonight.”
Menominee controlled the majority of the game, opening with an 11-4 run before Krueger tipped in a putback bucket and Anker drilled a jumper to cut the lead to three. Derusha tacked on a layup to give the Maroons a 13-8 edge after the first quarter.
Consecutive baskets by Krueger and Anker pulled Gillett within one until putback buckets by Hannah Drifka and Doyle gave Menominee a five-point cushion.
Derusha went three-for-four on free throws as the Maroons’ lead grew to seven points, but the Tigers battled back behind layups by Krueger and Franti to make it a 25-22 game at halftime.
Gillett’s defense allowed just nine points in the third quarter, with Olson, Anna Axtell and Makayla Sinks all drilling 3-pointers, but the Tigers kept it a five-point contest thanks to four points from Kaczmarek along with a second-chance bucket courtesy of Krueger.
Krueger and Kaczmarek each finished with 12 points. Herzog tacked on 11 while Anker chipped in six and Franti added four. Halle Fisher had one.
With Anna Nerat missing her second game, Olson stepped into the role of go-to scorer for the Maroons, pouring in a game-high 20 points and drawing praise from Regal after the game.
“We had some possessions where we didn’t front her and she got the ball and hurt us, but after we got some weak-side help we did a good job with her,” he said.
Doyle and Derusha backed up Olson with six points each while Drifka finished with four. Axtell and Sinks each contributed three.
Both teams are back in action on Thursday, with Menominee traveling to Stephenson at 6:30 and Gillett visiting Crivitz for a 7:15 tipoff.
Gillett 46, Menominee 42
Gillett 8 14 7 17—46
Menominee 13 12 9 8—42
Gillett: Kaczmarek 12, Krueger 12, Herzog 11, Anker 6, Franti 4, Fisher 1; FTs: 9-15.
Menominee: Olson 20, Derusha 6, Doyle 6, Drifka 4, Axtell 3, Sinks 3; FTs: 3-5.