Nicolet girls drop first basketball game to Pius, 67-63
Star Green injured after scoring 30 in loss
Mequon — It's hard to flummox state-championship level guards.
And that's what the top-ranked in state Nicolet girls basketball ran into Tuesday afternoon in the semifinals of the Rathke Memorial Tournament at Franklin, as No. 2-ranked and defending state champion Pius XI shook off an early 11-point deficit and held the Knights at bay in giving them their first loss of the year, 67-63.
"We talked about in the locker," said Lady Popes coach Scott Herrick. "Whether we're up 10 or down 10, you have to follow the game plan. Last year, we went down 11-0 in the sectional final (and eventually won).
"It shows you don't have to panic, you just have to hang in there and tighten up the 'D' (defense)."
Which the 8-0 Pius squad did as they advanced to the title game that was played Wednesday afternoon while Nicolet played in the consolation event.
Green falls in fourth
The Knights had much more immediate concerns after the game, as returning NOW Newspapers All-Suburban Player of the Year Ashley Green came down hard on her hip following her shot late in the fourth quarter. She took a long time getting up and had a hard time walking.
That followed a spectacular 30-point effort from her, including 20 in the second half.
Nicolet got six points from center Alex Cohen in that early run that left the Knights up 15-4 with 4:29 left in the first quarter, but then the Lady Popes dug in and outscored the Knights 20-3 in the remainder of the period to take a 24-18 advantage. They forced five Knights turnovers in the period as Nicolet would have 20 miscues for the game.
Guards dictated game
"We didn't play Nicolet basketball for much of the night," said a frustrated Nicolet coach Corey Wolf. "We played Pius basketball and let their guards dictate the game to us. We needed someone to step up and take charge. We couldn't hang our heads like we did for much of the game."
The Knights especially felt the wrath of junior point guard Terri Bender, one of three returning guards for Pius this season. It was Bender's first game after missing a week due to an injury. She had 11 points before fouling out in the fourth quarter. Before that happened, she helped the Lady Popes build as much as a 10-point lead.
When she went out, the Knights eased their way back in, and when Gaby Bronson put in a fast-break layup with 3:21 to go, it was 57-55 Pius. Green then forced a turnover, but the Knights returned the favor with a traveling violation.
Pius then got crucial put-back baskets on back-to-back possessions from Tierra Bender and Nikki Nellen to keep the lead at four with 1:51 remaining.
Nicolet never had the ball with a chance to tie again.
Pius was led by forward Ally Matkovich with 17 while Katie Golomski and Nellen had nine apiece. Cohen chipped in 18 for Nicolet.
"Their guards just controlled the game," said Wolf.
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