Milton takes out top seed; Monona Grove is up next
BURLINGTON The free-throw line has eliminated many high school basketball teams from the playoffs.
Milton High, however, was determined not to let free throws be the difference in extending its season.
The Red Hawks drained 14 of 17 free-throw attempts in the fourth quarter to seal a 53-49 heart-pounding victory over top-seeded Wilmot in a WIAA Division 2 girls basketball sectional semifinal here Thursday night.
Morgan Blumer and Liz Westrick combined for 34 points, including 16 in the fourth quarter, to lead Milton into Saturday’s 7 p.m. sectional final game against Monona Grove at Janesville Craig.
“It was quite a war between two good teams battling it out,” Milton coach Scott Randall said. “Obviously from where I stood it was stressful, especially on some of the late possessions where it didn’t go smooth, but we made free throws down the stretch.”
Wilmot coach Keiya Square could only watch in frustration as Milton drained free throw after free throw.
“When they got into the double bonus and we had to foul, it was tough,” Square said. “We never got to that double-bonus level, which made it even tougher.”
The Panthers hit their share free throws as well, including Justine Schattner’s two free throws shots with 48 seconds left that gave her team a 47-46 lead.
Blumer responded with two free throws on the ensuing possession, giving Wilmot the ball and a chance to win with 30 seconds to play.
But the Red Hawks’ defense wouldn’t be denied.
After Panther guard Jenna Damon drove into the lane, a swarm of Milton defenders blocked her jump shot.
Milton went on to sink five more free throws from there to seal the victory.
“It was two heavyweights slugging it out at the end and whoever was left standing was going to win,” Randall said. “Our senior leadership has the desire and does not want to be done.”
The first-half scoring, however, belonged to Wilmot. The Panthers closed out the first half with a 9-2 run to take a 27-22 into halftime. Kari Clements scored 13 of her team-high 19 points to lead Wilmot in the first half.
The Red Hawks’ defense regrouped in the second half and held Wilmot to just four third-quarter points en route to a 31-31 game at the end of the quarter.
That set up the vintage fourth-quarter battle that featured eight lead changes, with Milton finally grabbing the upper hand in the final 10 seconds.
“Down the stretch, I like to lean on the girls to motivate them to reach their goals,” Randall said. “I’m just here to help them get there.”
Randall’s team is now just one victory away from reaching state for the second time in three years.
Milton lost to Monona Grove twice during the regular season, but the second came by just one point. Milton will sell advanced tickets to Saturday’s sectional final today from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday from 8 a.m. until noon.
MILTON 53, WILMOT 49
Wilmot (49)—Klotz, 2-0-4; Schattner, 1-2-4; Clements, 6-4-19; Vozel, 3-2-8; Tenhagen, 0-3-3; Eidson, 2-7-11. Totals: 14-18-49.
Milton (53)—Blumer, 6-7-20; Stair, 1-1-3; Westrick, 4-6-14; Bucholtz, 1-0-2; Davis, 0-3-3; Harms, 5-0-11. Totals: 17-17-53.
Wilmot 15 12 4 18—49
Milton 13 9 9 22—53
Three-point goals—Wilmot 3 (Clements 3), Milton 2 (Blumer, Harms). Free throws missed—Wilmot 7, Milton 8. Total fouls—Wilmot 19, Milton 16.