By Jason Arndt

When the play wasn’t there, Riley Alexander decided to take it herself, which paid off for Wilmot Union High School in Friday’s 69-64 season opening girls basketball defeat of visiting Shoreland Lutheran.

The Panthers, who had a 63-49 lead midway through the second half, saw the commanding lead turn into a 64-63 deficit with 30 seconds left in the non conference contest.

Alexander, held scoreless in the first half, took the inbound pass and discovered an open lane.

The opening gave her plenty of room to drive directly to the hoop, where she made the layup to pull the Panthers ahead 65-64.

Riley Alexander

“I was very confused at first, the play was not there, so I had to drive it and I was stoked,” said Alexander, who knocked in eight points, including six from the arc.

In the closing seconds, the Panthers were stuck without a bonus, which allowed the Pacers to apply pressure on inbound passes and force fouls.

Panthers’ Haley Lamberson, who took most of the fouls, eventually capitalized at the free throw line where she went 4 for 4 to extend the Wilmot lead to 69-64.

Lamberson, who finished with 11 points, opened the second half with back-to-back baskets including a three-pointer.

According to Lamberson, who went scoreless in the first half, the team felt rejuvenated after halftime.

“I just think we really picked up the intensity in the second half,” she said.

Lamberson, meanwhile, had the daunting task of defending the game’s leading scorer Chelby Koker, of Shoreland Lutheran.

Koker, who knocked in a game-high 37 points, caused havoc in Wilmot coach Jerod Boyd’s game plan.

Boyd, who tried different defensive schemes, believes Koker is the most challenging player he ever coached against.

“That Koker kid is the toughest kid I ever coached against,” he said. “Koker played every minute, she ruins game plans.”

Koker scored 11 points in the Pacers’ 15-0 run, which gave Shoreland the 64-63.

Koker’s contribution comes as no surprise to Pacers coach Holly Bahr.

“She leads us on and off the court,” Bahr said.

Through Koker’s leadership, the Pacers made it difficult for Boyd, who coached his first career Wilmot game Friday.

“They made it a little harder than I wanted it to be, but it came down to making key shots at the end,” Boyd said.

Bell, Zenon propel Panthers

Becca Bell

In the first half, where there were multiple lead changes, Panthers Becca Bell pitched in four go-ahead buckets.

Bell scored a team-leading 17 points coming off the bench.

“Becca came off the bench and scored some big points, especially in the first half and kept us in the game,” Boyd said.

Morgan Zenon, meanwhile, knocked in all 11 of her points in the first half, including a basket to pull the Panthers ahead 27-26.

In the next possession, Zenon drew a foul, and converted one of her two free throws to give the Panthers a 28-26 lead.

After the Pacers deadlocked the contest 28-28, the Panthers produced a 9-4 run, sparked by an Aryana Rita 3-pointer.

Despite a Pacers’ bucket, Zenon answered with a perimeter shot of her own to extended the Panthers’ lead to 34-30.

Rita then negated a Pacers basket with one of her own to send the Panthers into halftime with a 36-32 lead.

Panthers avenge loss
Wilmot’s win comes a year after the Panthers dropped a contest at Shoreland.

According the Bahr, there was a clear difference between both contests, noting the Pacers were in midseason form last year.

“When we played them last year, it was midseason and this was the first game for us and that was a huge difference for us tonight,” she said.

Wilmot plays at Waukesha South Saturday in another non conference contest.


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