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Women’s hoops takes share of conference crown

Women’s hoops takes share of conference crown

The UW-Eau Claire women’s basketball team captured a win and a share of the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference title on Saturday. They defeated the UW-Stevens Point Pointers 66-55 at Zorn Arena.

The game doubled as senior day for the Blugolds.  At halftime, seniors Laura Olson, Nicole Christianson, Jess Freagon, Callie Halama and Ellen Plendl were recognized for their careers and commitment to the program.

It was a tale of two halves, as Eau Claire shot only 25 percent from the floor in the first half and was held scoreless for almost nine minutes of game time.  At halftime, Stevens Point led 29-21 and seemed to be controlling the game.

Coach Tonja Englund said she felt the team’s poor shooting in the first half was a result of taking too many outside shots and not getting the ball into the post for easier shots.

“We talked about at halftime that we really needed to readjust and to start inside and go out,” Englund said.  “If you look at the shot chart it was a lot different in the second half because the ball went inside.”

The team’s adjustments worked, as they came out on a 10-0 run to start the second half and took the lead 31-29.  Halama and Plendl combined for 47 points and 25 rebounds and led the team’s second half charge.

Halama had 27 points and 13 rebounds, both of which are career highs.  She also had 10 offensive rebounds, which her teammates attributed to her relentless attitude.

“Practice, games, she’s always going 100 percent, just unstoppable,” Christianson said.  “I love playing with her and I wouldn’t trade her for anybody.”

Olson said having two dominant post players is definitely an advantage when the team needs to score.

“Callie and Ellen, what more should I say about them?” Olson said.  “Callie’s the strongest player in the league, and Ellen’s the tallest.  It’s nice having them on our side.”

Englund said Halama’s hot streak in the second half was important in that it got the crowd of over 1,500 into the game and fired up her teammates.

“She just keeps on going, and that’s a little insight into her personality,” Englund said.  “That is exactly what Callie Halama is about.”

Plendl, a Chipppewa Falls native, had 20 points and 12 rebounds and added four blocks.  She mentioned how playing alongside a player like Halama helps her excel.

“She inspires me to play harder every day,” Plendl said. “Best friends right there, she’s amazing.”

A win for Eau Claire and a loss by UW-River Falls means the team gets a first round bye in the WIAC tournament and will play next at home on Feb. 25.  The team could face co-conference champion Stevens Point again in the tournament championship.

Englund said she’ll let the team enjoy this win before getting back to work and preparing for Thursday.

“It’s a group that has come so far that they deserve this,” Englund said.  “To have a senior class of five, this is something that I don’t know they thought they could do as sophomores, so we will enjoy this.”

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