State-ranked Lutheran girls basketball team is off to 9-1 start
Usually the basketball limelight at Lutheran belongs to the boys. They are now sharing it with the girls, who are off to a 9-1 start and in the state rankings for what is believed to be the first time.
The Crusaders had a total of only nine wins the previous two seasons, which included a 28-game losing streak that came to an end last December.
No wonder coach Mike Scheele calls the season wonderful so far.
“The girls work so hard together in practice,” he said. “It has been a seamless transition from summer to the start of our season, and the continuity they’re continuing to develop has been great. Their work ethic, every night coming in and recognizing tonight’s the next night to improve. They’ve done a great job with that.
“It’s been a pleasure coaching them.”
Lutheran, which is 6-0 in the South Division of the Big East Conference, is ninth in the Division 5 state poll. Its only loss was to St. Mary’s Springs, which is No. 7 in Division 4.
One of the many highlights of the season was halting a 33-game losing streak to Oostburg thanks to a 67-54 victory on Dec. 14.
Lutheran entered the season with losing skids to Ozaukee (11 games), Random Lake (six) and Hilbert (five), but beat all three of those schools.
Addy Verhagen, a freshman who earlier this season became the second girl at the school to record a triple-double, averages a team-high 19 points and seven assists per game.
Rose Hahn averages 14.5 points and Faith Pape leads in rebounding with 8.5 per outing.
“I really felt like we had a talented group, from the seniors class to the freshmen class,” Scheele said. “In working with them in the summer and early part of November, it was very intriguing to see the opportunities we had in front of us from an athleticism and depth standpoint.”
The Redwings knew what they were getting in returning players Maddie Ognacevic and Sierra Ertman.
They have pleasantly found out what freshman Alayna Lloyd has to offer, too.
“She’s made a big jump,” coach Garrett Renzelmann said. “She hasn’t really played a full season since she was in seventh grade.”
The pandemic may have halted games last year, but the point guard is third on the team in scoring (6.6 points per game) and has already started five times due to an ankle injury to Ellie Daharsh.
“Honestly, I think it’s helped her almost feel more comfortable on the floor, a little more confident and assertive. She plays at a great pace. That’s probably the thing that I love the most about her. She gets up and down the floor. She’s aggressive, she attacks, and she’s got that varsity speed and pace already.”
Daharsh “should be back soon,” according to her coach.
Leading scorer Maddie Ognacevic is likely to break the school’s all-time rebounding record in a few games.
And Sierra Ertman continues to help the offense by scoring 10.7 points, just a bit below Ognacevic for the one-win Redwings.
“We’re trying to get better everyday, gain that experience get more comfortable out there in varsity situations,” Renzelmann said. “We’ve had some close games, now we’ve just got to figure out what it takes and get over the hump into the win column.”
NORTH BEATS RIVAL
The Golden Raiders picked up their first win of the year, 63-37, against South on Dec. 18.
They did it by creating a lot of turnovers on defense, which led to a lot of transition points, according to coach Keith Conway.
“We had really good balanced scoring, we had four girls in double digits,” he said.
Anna Fogle led the way with 18 points and Abby Reinl added 14 with seven steals.
North lost its first six games of the season, but four of those contests were against state-ranked teams. The Golden Raiders also played Appleton East, No. 2 in Division 1, on Thursday.
“I think we’re better than our record indicates at this point,” Conway said.
CHRISTIAN IN TIMEOUT
First-year co-coaches Alyssa Pasiewicz and Rachel Rasmussen were asked the pros and cons of not having a game in a stretch of 17 days. The Eagles have not played since Dec. 17 and they have to wait until Jan. 4 to face Ozaukee.
“The pros a longer break is a chance to recharge, refocus, and just spend some important time with family,” Rasmussen said. ““With a rebuilding season like this, we like to set intentional goals and a break gives our girls some time to reflect on some current and future ones. I would say there are not many cons to it, besides losing some conditioning; we still keep our girls practicing our skills.”