Women’s hoops comeback effort falls just short

Blugolds find outside shot in second half

Story by Nick Erickson, Editor In Chief

NOTE: Erickson also wrote this story for the Leader-Telegram’s Nov. 23 issue.

It wasn’t a matter of getting quality shots.

It was a matter of putting them in the hoop.

Despite erasing a 14-point halftime deficit, the UW-Eau Claire women’s basketball team shot 23 percent in the first half and, after trading leads for much of the second, ultimately fell 62-57 to Division II Winona State Saturday in Zorn Arena.

Many of those missed shots came within the paint and at the free throw line for head coach Tonja Englund’s crew.

“It wasn’t some of the things that happened down the stretch,” she said. “It was obviously the first half when we dug ourselves that hole.”

During the game’s first 20 minutes, the Warriors shot 52 percent from the floor, including making five of nine from the 3-point line against a somewhat passive Blugold zone.

“I was disappointed in the first half with our fight,” Englund said. “A lot of it at halftime was about our effort and playing hard and not being back on our heels.”

But in the second, Eau Claire turned to a four-guard lineup, and the quartet of perimeter used the dribble drive effectively and heated up from the outside.

Down 40-28, Englund watched her team go on a 14-0 run to take a two-point lead.

“We’ve really been working on our motions, and it worked for us in the second half,” sophomore guard Abby Midtlien said. “We had … a lot of great extra passes.”

The Blugolds and Warriors battled all the way down the stretch as neither team held a lead of more than five for the last 12:36 of the game.

Senior Kristin Sahr found some offense as she scored seven points in that stretch, and Midtlien drilled back-to-back triples to give the Blugolds a four-point lead they would later relinquish.

Defensively, however, Eau Claire held Winona State, a team that had reached 90 points earlier in the season, to just 25 second-half points and 28 percent from the floor.

“We really came together as a team on defense in the second half,” Midtlien said. “We had a lot of defensive stops, and we were able to push it back at them and score.”

Kali Hackmann hit a 3-pointer with 2:43 to go that proved to be the game-winning basket for Winona State. That score capped off a 6-0 Warriors’ run.

Englund said she was pleased by the response she got from her squad, but at the end of the day, it’s about finishing the job.

“It doesn’t make us feel any better that we were close,” she said. “These are games that we want to win.”

Courtney Lewis led the way with 15 points and eight rebounds for the Blugolds.