By Dan Truttschel

Sports Correspondent

A 13-point deficit in the first half of last week’s Division 2 sectional semifinal could have spelled doom for the Wilmot girls basketball team.

But the Panthers stayed the course and turned to an old friend – their defense – for help.

Wilmot got back to doing what it’s best at, and that’s causing the opposition to make a mistake, and it keyed a furious comeback in a 60-58 win over McFarland at Waukesha West.

The win sent the Panthers to a sectional final Saturday at Janesville Craig against DeForest, a contest they lost 65-30 to close the season at 18-8 overall.

Wilmot coach Keiya Square was impressed with his team’s comeback in the semifinal.

“It was pretty cool,” he said. “To be able to come back from a 13-point, first-half deficit and win the game was really big for us.”

Wilmot trailed 30-20 at halftime before it began to turn the tables. The Panthers cut the deficit to one point headed into the fourth quarter, before they tied the game and then finally took the lead for good.

The spark all came from the defensive end of the court, Square said.

“We were able to limit (their shots) a majority of the third quarter, and offensively, we started to figure out their pressure and get into our half-court stuff,” he said.

“They did a lot of the same stuff as DeForest did (in the sectional final) in their half-court trapping, except they weren’t as tall and long. Once we got that figure out, we were in good shape.”

Rachel Szyldowski, who led all scorers with 22 points, had 12 straight during the comeback, including a 3-pointer that knotted the score at 51-51.

While her usual home is in the post, Szyldowski is capable of hitting the outside shot, Square said.

“When we do our shooting drills, everyone has to shoot threes at some point, and all of our post players shoot that exact shot a lot throughout the season,” he said.

“I know she can make that shot, and even though she hasn’t made a bunch this year, I was confident in her taking that shot, especially (being) wide open).”

Szyldowski, who also had seven rebounds and three assists, came through in the clutch when her team needed her most, Square said.

“Rachel has been big for us all year, but especially the last couple games,” he said. “Even though she has been outsized every game, she continued to play hard, started to learn how to attack taller players and really use her body to get into better positions.”

 

Trey gives Panthers lead

Jenna Damon drained a 3-pointer that gave the Panthers the lead for good at 54-51 with 2:03 left. Wilmot eventually built its lead to 58-51 before McFarland made one last attempt at a comeback.

The Spartans hit two free throws with 1.6 seconds left, and had a chance for the tie when they grabbed an offensive rebound and put up a shot, but it was of the mark as time expired.

Kari Clements added 15 points, including eight in the fourth quarter, five steals and four assists, followed by Olivia Klahs with seven and Sam Kirk with six.

Kirk started in place of Marnie Destree, who injured her knee in practice two days before the semifinal.

Destree’s absence certainly was felt, Square said.

“Marnie is the type of player who doesn’t fill up the box score every night, but she knows what she is doing and is a very solid player,” he said.

“She was also versatile on defense. She could guard a taller post player or step out and guard a guard so we didn’t have to change what we were doing too much based on who we played.”

Square was pleased with the girls who stepped in for Destree during the sectional.

“All year we have had kids step up when needed,” he said. “That is a major reason we ended up where we were this year.”

 
 

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