Nicolet girls earn finals spot

March 25, 2011

Nicolet girls basketball coach Corey Wolf said after the Knights shockingly easy 72-46 rout of Eau Claire North in the WIAA State Division 1 semifinals Friday night in the Kohl Center in Madison that her team is "playing its best ball of the season."

And it's hard to argue with her, as the Knights (26-2) earned the first state basketball final in school history for either a boys or a girls team.

They will play Middleton (26-1) at 8:30 p.m. Saturday back at the Kohl Center.

"We're really excited," said Wolf. "This has been our goal since day one. To get to the final and to win a state championship. ...And we've done it by taking a game-by-game approach. We've been successful that way and we've put ourselves where we want to be with a chance to make history."

Both North (24-3) and Nicolet were coming off short rest as both their super sectional games were postponed from Tuesday to Thursday by inclement weather. North, in fact, drove from its super sectional site in Steven Point straight to Madison after their game with Appleton East.

And it placed the Huskies directly into the blades of a full-speed buzzsaw, as the Knights showed no signs of tired legs at all from their win the night before over De Pere.

They scored the first nine points of the game, forced turnovers on the first four North possessions and before the Huskies could score their second basket, were up 15-2. Senior forward Ashley Green had eight of her 15 first half points in the quarter as the margin was 17-4 at period's end.

The Knights sharp and exacting play was fueled by a need to play. After four months of both practice and playing games, the latter is infinitely preferrable, said Green.

"Even while we were sitting around the hotel today we were anxious to get out and play," she said.

Center Alex Cohen, who dominated the interior with her athletic and strong 6-5 frame to the tune of 25 points, eight rebounds and three blocked shots, said experience helped the Knights adjust to back-to-back games.

"The majority of our team plays summer ball, so we're used to playing three games, four games in a day," she said, "and I can understand that's hard to adjust to for teams who don't do that."

Nicolet continued to pour on the gas in the second quarter going on a 13-2 run midway through the session to expand the lead to 33-11. The Huskies made a mini-run at the end of the stanza and closed the gap to 37-19.

The numbers at the half were astonishing, as the Knights forced 17 turnovers to go along with their nine steals and eight assists. They shot a sizzling 12 of 18  (67 percent) from the field.

"There's only so much you can do to adjust in a day," said North coach Michelle Peplinski. "...We don't see teams like this that often (with Nicolet's athleticism), so it was obviously a case of whiplash for us in that first half."

The third quarter contained no drama whatsoever as Nicolet scored 11 of the period's first 13 points and the last eight of it too.

It was 62-27 going into the fourth as Wolf was able to play her entire bench.

"We were excited to be playing back-to-back games and now we'll be playing back-to-back-to-back," said Wolf. "These kids don't want to practice, they want to play."

Green finished with 21 points on seven of eight shooting to go along with five assists and two steals while Brittney Fair added 10 points, five assists and two steals. Alicia Olson had 12 points for North.

"It's hard to simulate the intensity of the defensive pressure that they bring," said Peplinski. "...It really took our kids off-guard."

And it just might take the Knights all the way to the promised land of a championship Saturday night.

"We've been thinking about this since our freshmen year," said Green. "Make it to state and then go out and win it. We're ready to go. We'd like to get out there right now."

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