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Sauk girls post first victory


December 20, 2018

Brian Sprecher

Naomi Breunig and Sauk Prairie's girls basketball team notched their first win of the season last week.

As the adage goes, a high-scoring offense attracts fans, but defense wins championships.

In the case of Sauk Prairie's girls basketball team, a stellar defensive effort helped the Eagles post their first victory of the season.

Sauk Prairie held visiting Baraboo to just three points over the final 14 minutes to secure a 40-22 victory over the Thunderbirds in a Badger North Conference game last Friday on Youth Night.

"I told the girls this is the beginning of something great," Sauk Prairie coach Amber Fiene said. "We knew this was going to be a big game, and we had to get this one."

After the teams played to a 14-14 tie at halftime, Baraboo grabbed a 19-18 lead on Grace Stuckey's 3-pointer with 14:11 remaining.

But the Eagles closed out the game on a 22-3 run, ignited by the squad's best defensive effort of the season.

"That was our key," Fiene said. "We talked about it all week. We talked about it at halftime and every time out. We have to play defense because that's where we will be successful.

"Once our defense is getting stops, things will happen offensively. We've got to believe that defense is the priority in our games."

It was a combination of defense and an ugly shooting performance for both teams in the first half, which led to the stalemate entering the break.

Sauk Prairie (1-7, 1-4 Badger North) shot 6 of 23 from the field (26 percent) in the opening frame, including 2 of 9 from 3-point range (22 percent), and committed nine turnovers.

Baraboo (1-6, 1-4) turned the ball over just four times in the first half, but the Thunderbirds missed 14 straight field goal attempts and finished the half just 3 of 23 (13.1%), including 1 of 11 from beyond the arc (9.1%).

"We were trying to stay positive, cheer ourselves on and keep working," Sauk Prairie junior guard Ella Schad said of the halftime message. "Our main goal was to attack the basket and rebound harder."

Fiene focused the Eagles' defensive efforts on the Baraboo trio of senior forward Haley Hannagan (12 points per game) and junior forwards Lia Kieck (8.4) and Alexis Johnson (8.3), who had combined for nearly 29 points per game.

Hannegan finished with a team-high 10 points. Johnson and Kieck combined for just nine points, though, all in the first half.

"I really saw some girls stepping up on defense," Fiene said. "(Katie) Yanke and Ella (Schad) were shutting down Kieck, who was getting frustrated. Cam (Ballweg) was playing super tough on Johnson.

"We knew the game plan. They executed it, for the most part, in the second half. The first half, we were a little out of it. But this was a good win for us. We needed it."

Schad, the team's defensive stopper a year ago, has been hampered with a foot injury she suffered while playing soccer last spring. She sat out the Eagles' cross country season and missed the first two games of the basketball season before gradually working herself back into the lineup.

Fiene said the old Schad was back and in business against the Thunderbirds.

"She's finding her groove," Fiene said of Schad, who failed to score but contributed four rebounds, an assist and one steal. "I felt like we had the real Ella back at Beaver Dam."

Schad made several defensive plays against the two-time defending state champion Golden Beavers in the Eagles' previous game that had Fiene excited.

"I texted her that night, pumping her up telling her that I was so glad to see her out there running around," Fiene said. "She was on (Kieck), one of Baraboo's toughest players. I don't think she scored when Ella was on her."

That drew a smile from Schad.

"It felt good," she said. "I was excited to get back out there and excited for this game because it was a turning point for our season.

"We were trying to stay in front. Their main attacking was driving so we gave them a little cushion so they couldn't drive past us. We helped each other out so they couldn't get through the gaps."

Senior guard Riley Breunig scored nine of her game-high 13 points in the second half and sophomore guard Naomi Breunig nailed two 3-pointers in the second half to spark the Eagles on offense.

Riley Breunig recorded a double-double, leading Sauk Prairie with 10 rebounds. Senior guard Katie Mack also pulled down five rebounds.

"They don't do much against the posts on defense so (coach Fiene) said be ready to take it in," said Riley Breunig, who scored 20 points in a 65-54 win at Baraboo last season. "We had a lot of determination to beat this team. We hadn't won yet. It was Youth Night. It's my favorite night. I love it."

Ballweg, who finished with four points, six rebounds and two assists, gave Sauk Prairie the lead for good with a driving layup with 13:49 to play.

That kicked off a 14-0 burst for the Eagles, which included four straight 3-pointers - one each by Riley Breunig and Olivia Breunig and back-to-back treys from Naomi Breunig - for a 32-19 lead with 8:50 to play.

Baraboo missed all seven field goal attempts and committed three turnovers during the game-turning run for Sauk Prairie.

Fiene said the defensive effort played a large factor in the Eagles' output on offense in the second half.

"We made some shots," Fiene said. "But we got after it on the defensive end. Then we were 4-for-5 on threes, which really helped us propel forward."

Hannagan hit two free throws to end the Thunderbirds scoring drought with 8:21 left to play.

Olivia Breunig countered with a 3-pointer that helped the Eagles close the game on an 8-1 run.

Sauk Prairie was 11 of 24 from the field (45.8%) and 4 of 6 from beyond the arc (66.7%) in the second half.

But the Eagles' defense was more impressive, limiting Baraboo to 2 of 28 shooting (7.1%) in the second half, including 1 of 12 from 3-point range (8.3%).

"We had to shut down their inside game and ability to drive to the basket," Fiene said. "We were just making sure that if you're guarding the two girls who are not scorers, you're sinking in and helping prevent the lob and the drive. So really it was about getting in the gaps and taking their driving away."

• On deck: Following a Badger North Conference game on Tuesday, Sauk Prairie hosts Madison West in a non-conference game on Friday at 7:15 p.m. The Eagles return to action on Friday, Jan. 4 hosting Portage in a Badger North Conference game at 7:15 p.m. on Alumni Night.

Friday, Dec. 14

Brian Sprecher

Taylor Breininger and Sauk Prairie's girls basketball team downed Baraboo last week.

Sauk Prairie 40, Baraboo 22

Baraboo ......................... 14 8 - 22

Sauk Prairie .................... 14 26 - 40

BARABOO - Autumn Klemm 0 1-4 1, Abby Moon 0 0-0 0, Haley Hannagan 2 6-8 10, Lia Kieck 1 0-0 2, Grace Stuckey 1 0-0 3, Johnson 1 3-6 6. Totals 5 10-18 22.

Sauk Prairie - Cam Ballweg 2 0-0 4, Katie Yanke 3 0-0 8, Naomi Breunig 2 0-0 6, Taylor Breininger 1 0-0 2, Riley Breunig 6 0-0 13, Olivia Breunig 3 0-0 7, Ella Schad 0 0-0 0. Totals 17 0-0 40.

3-point goals - B 2 (Stuckey 1, Johnson 1), SP 6 (Yanke 2, N. Breunig 2, R. Breunig 1, O. Breunig 1). Total fouls - B 12, SP 17. Fouled out – Abby Moon (B).


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