Feb. 24—CHIPPEWA FALLS — One side likes to launch the ball from deep. The other likes to pack it tight in the lane.
The contrasting styles of the McDonell and Wisconsin Rapids Assumption girls basketball teams should add plenty of intrigue to Thursday’s Division 5 state semifinal.
McDonell, the No. 2 seed, shoots the ball better from 3-point range than any other team in the Division 5 tournament field. The third-seeded Royals, on the other hand, don’t shoot particularly well from beyond the arc but still boast a standout field goal percentage by playing from the paint.
Which style prevails?
“They’re very good inside, they get a lot of rebounds and they’re very patient with the shots that they take,” McDonell coach Don Cooper said of the Royals. “If we can disrupt that rhythm, which we’ve been very successful in doing this season, it puts us in a good position. If we can’t, we struggle. If they’re ready for it, it becomes a very difficult game.”
The two square off at 12:35 p.m. on Thursday at the La Crosse Center with a trip to the state championship game on the line. It’s the first-ever trip to state for the Macks.
Assumption (14-8) enters the tournament with a rarity on its roster. Center Emily Bohn stands at 6-foot-4 and is the tallest player left in the Division 5 field by three inches.
“For us, we have (Bohn) in the paint that can protect the basket, so closing out on shooters is something that we can do aggressively,” Assumption coach Ryan Klein said on a conference call Sunday. “Hopefully we can limit those shots.”
Stopping the 3-pointer would likely be key to any potential Assumption success considering how well McDonell is shooting heading into the tournament. The Macks (12-3) made 20 across their last two games, and entering sectionals were shooting the 3 at a 37% clip — the best percentage in the Division 5 field.
Assumption has shown a knack for applying press defense this season, and may do so to get McDonell out of its flow. The Macks are prepping for that.
“We’re definitely going to have to up our rebounding game, and we’re going to have to be ready for any type of press or zone that they throw at us,” said McDonell guard Lauryn Deetz, the team’s leading scorer.
Any number of McDonell players can knock down open looks from deep. Anna Geissler, the team’s sole senior, entered sectionals having hit 45% of her 64 attempts from beyond the arc. Freshman Emily Cooper was shooting 38%.
If the Macks can maintain their recent recipe for success — hot shooting and stingy defense — they’ll likely be in good shape.
They’ve got the advantage of having already faced a 6-foot-4 post presence to help give them an idea of what it will take to win. They played against Altoona’s Alyssa Wirth twice this winter, who stands at the same height as Bohn.
“She brought us the competition level we’ll probably see (at state),” Cooper said. “I just think that experience level that we’ve played at will help us. … And Northwood had a couple bigs (in the sectional semis), that was something we hadn’t really seen. And Altoona had Alyssa and some good-shooting, quick guards. So that kind of gives us an idea of what Assumption does.”
Playing at the La Crosse Center will be a new experience for everyone, but particularly for the Macks. The process of going to state is all new to them. The logistics and anticipation add a level of excitement and nerves to the equation.
“It’s intense and also a little nervous,” Deetz said. “We’re trying to make sure we have everything down for whatever they might throw at us at state.”
The winner of the semifinal turns around and plays in the state championship at 7:05 p.m. that night. It’s another new wrinkle for teams to adjust to in a season which as been full of them.
“Everybody has to adjust with everything that we’re doing,” Cooper said. “With these girls, the resiliency they’ve been through as been phenomenal. The way they’ve stepped up through adversity is something that I’ve never had in a team before, and they’ve done an exceptional job of it.”