By Charlie Ellerbrock, email@example.com 815-431-4035
OTTAWA — It must have been nice for Marquette Academy girls basketball coach Luke Windy to see that against a tough opponent like Flanagan-Cornell/Woodland, when his club ran into foul trouble and when the simplest of shots just aren't falling, there was someone there to pick up the slack.
Shortly after a turnaround jumper by Kayla VanWeelden with 5 minutes, 31 seconds left in the third quarter gave the Falcons a 24-23 lead, MA's senior standout Anna Sypniewski went to the bench with her fourth foul. That, coupled with the defensive clamps FCW put on star guard Emily Owens, put the hosts in dire need for a pick-me-up.
And they got just the one they needed, from Maggie Hettel and Ellen Wheatland.
Wheatland made a bucket off an inbounds play to regain the lead and then joined Hettel in leading the Lady Crusaders on an 18-7 run that turned the one-time nail-biter into an exciting 46-41 victory over the Falcons here in Bader Gymnasium.
Sypniewski returned to get the last five of her team-best 13 points and last three of her eight rebounds down the stretch, while Hettel added 11 points and eight boards and Wheatland seven points and eight caroms. Together, they led a 42-29 edge on the glass that helped offset their own 10-of-17 shooting from the line and a terrific 20-point, five-rebound effort by the Falcons' Jadyn Mitchell.
"Maggie Hettel had a great game for us," said Windy, whose club moved to 9-2 by virtually duplicating a 47-25 win over FCW at the Stone Seed Lady Falcons Classic on Nov. 14. "She got some big buckets for us, some big rebounds for us and defensively, she was tough in the paint, that rim protector we needed ... We needed some other girls to step up for us like Maggie and Ellen did, and that's what we really need at this point in the season.
"We didn't do a very good job against their dribble penetration and I thought they controlled the boards in the first half, but in the second, we did a better job there ... We still didn't play smart at times — the foul on a half -court shot at the half, throwing the ball away in the fourth quarter, and that's our seniors doing that — and we can't have that. This was ugly, but coming off a tough one Saturday and against a tough team tonight, we'll take it."
The teams combined for 5-of-23 shooting in a 7-7 first quarter, and five points by Owens would have had MA up more than one at the half, if not for Mitchell being fouled on a three-quarter court heave at the buzzer. She made all three shots — part of her sizzling 9-for-9 night at the line — to keep it 21-20 Cru at the break.
In the third, a running scoop by Mitchell and VanWeelden's jumper gave the visitors the edge, before Wheatland's deuce started the home rally. Hettel had five points and Wheatland four in the burst that put Marquette on top 41-31 with 3:33 left in the fourth.
True to form, FCW battled back within 45-41 on two Mitchell tosses and a basket by Liberty Vollmer, the latter with 28.9 seconds left, but they ran out of time.
"Let me say this was the first (complete) game we've played all season," said FCW coach Ron Spencer. "The game came down to some rebounds and a couple of missed assignments on the press, but we played hard, we adjusted to their zone, ran some sets and scored off them, and our defense was much better than the first time. We focused on No. 22 (Sypniewski) and No. 23 (Emily Owens) and only one made double figures when together they scored 65 percent of their points (19 and 16, respectively) in that earlier game.
"We're 1-10 right now, but this is the first time we've gotten beat all season. We've lost those other games, but tonight was the first time we got beat and there's a big difference ... Tonight, the kids dug deep and gave (Marquette) everything they wanted and I'm so proud of them."