By Dan Truttschel/Sports Correspondent

Forcing the opposition into mistakes has been the Wilmot girls basketball team’s mantra since coach Keiya Square’s arrival from Delavan-Darien.

Through the first eight games of the 2013-2014 season, however, the Panthers had struggled to find their groove.

That all changed Jan. 10.

Wilmot forced visiting Westosha Central into 44 turnovers and used a big third quarter to pull away in a 66-43 Southern Lakes Conference win.

The Panthers improved to 5-4 overall and 3-1 in the SLC with the win, while Central fell to 4-4 and 1-3 in conference play. Central traveled to Whitewater Monday night, while Wilmot hosted Union Grove Tuesday.

Results from each game were unavailable by press time.

“Defensively, we were all over the court and playing at a faster speed than we have the last couple games,” Square said. “We forced them into 44 turnovers, and 29 of those were steals.

“We made a step in the right direction. We still have a ways to go, but it was nice to see our girls start to make the right reads and be able to get into the right spots.”

Wilmot led by just five points at halftime but used a 19-6 third quarter to turn the game in its favor.

Both Square and first-year Central coach Jerod Boyd pointed to that eight-minute stretch as a key in the game.

“The girls came out of the half and really put the pressure on,” Square said. “When we were in the half court, we ran decent offense and were able to get some really good looks around the basket.”

Mental breakdowns during the third quarter hurt the Falcons, Boyd said.

“The second half, we just wore down mentally,” he said. “We were able to beat the press in the first half, but couldn’t continue making the right decisions.

“Their press has always been tough and they rotate very well. These kids have to learn to cherish every possession. We have a young back court that is getting valuable experience and will start to make better decisions.”

Central had 12 of its turnovers during the critical third-quarter stretch.

The 13-point advantage in the third quarter sent the Panthers into the last eight minutes up 18 points. Wilmot closed the game with a 16-11 edge in the fourth.

Early on, the game between the fierce rivals was hard fought on both ends of the floor. Wilmot led 13-12 after the first quarter, as it struggled to find a rhythm.

“We were not running any offense, and when we were turning them over, we weren’t able to get any points out of it,” Square said.

Clements sets school record

Wilmot senior standout Kari Clements led the Panthers with 19 points and a school-record 12 steals. She scored 15 of those points in the second and third quarters.

Clements was a handful to deal with, Boyd said.

“(She) is a heck of a player, and is so smart defensively,” he said. “She is able to read the passing lanes, take good angles and force us into making bad passes. We didn’t allow her to make as many threes as she likes to, but she was able to get a lot of easy buckets off steals.”

Square was pleased with Clements’ effort, but added the school record was a result of everyone on the floor doing their jobs as well.

“Kari always seems to be in the right spot when we get traps,” he said. “She does a great job of reading passing lanes, and then she has the speed and quickness to get a hand on the ball.

“The rest of our girls did a great job of putting pressure on their guards and getting them into our trapping zones.”

Olivia Klahs and Rachel Szyldowski each added 11 points for the Panthers, while Danielle Klotz chipped in with seven.

Klahs, just a sophomore, is gaining confidence on the floor, Square said.

“Olivia is starting to become more aggressive on the offensive end, and it is really helping us out,” he said. “She is taking the ball to the basket and starting to look for her shots more. She is also starting to figure out our defensive rotations, which is getting her some easy baskets.”

Madi Stancak led Central with 10 points, followed by Jaela McGill with nine, Mackenzie Myers with eight and Aliyha Willis with seven.

For Boyd, the game was a return home to the school he graduated from and played basketball for former coach and current Wilmot Athletic Director Herm Christiansen.

“It was fun to come back to Wilmot and coach at this level,” Boyd said. “It always is fun to come back to a place I spent so much time in.”

Wilmot is back in action Friday night when it travels to Burlington for a 6 p.m. SLC game with Demons. Central travels to Milwaukee South Friday night for a non-conference contest with the Rockets.

 

 
 

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