It isn't unusual for a New Berlin school to be the team everyone is chasing in Woodland girls basketball. But in a 2017 twist, it's New Berlin West that has established itself as the behemoth in a powerful conference and not defending state champion New Berlin Eisenhower.
Morgan Henrichs scored 13 of her 15 points in the second half, and fellow senior Lily Adkison delivered 4 key points down the stretch in a 41-33 victory Jan. 13 that gave West (12-1) outright control of the Woodland.
In a game where offense was hard to come by thanks to a mix of nerves and good defenses, Eisenhower (9-3) went into halftime with a 12-10 lead. West coach Collin Thompson, whose team is now 8-0 in league play and ahead of Ike by one game, knew it was going to be a low-scoring affair. West-Ike games usually are.
"They had us scouted well," he said. "The 12-10 halftime score was a little eye-popping, The girls were excited about the moment, and we got a little too fast for ourselves."
The Lions then came out in the second half and took an 6-point lead, when Jasmyn Somarsingh scored a layup and Katie Ludwig hit a 3-pointer to take a 17-11 advantage at the 16:30 mark.
But then, the Vikings took over, outscoring Eisenhower, taking a 26-22 lead at the 8:34 mark that gave West the footing it needed.
"I told my assistants this is danger territory," Thompson said. "We're either going to get back in the game, and they are going to stretch the lead on us. We strategized and changed our offense that we were running. We made a couple shots and then got into our zone offense."
Henrichs scored 10 of the Vikings' points in the run, while Alyssa Nelson added a 3-pointer and scored on a reverse layup. Eisenhower battled back to 28-25, but Ewelina Schlomann nailed a long 3-pointer for a 31-25 advantage.
"The success of our team is filtered through Morgan and creates other opportunities for kids to score," Thompson said.
Maddie Fritz and Adkison put in rebound baskets, and Fritz then scored a lay-up off a pass from Adkison for a 37-30 lead with 1:41 left in the game.
Ike's Julia Hintz managed a 3-pointer to close out the Lions scoring, but Adkison and Henrichs hit two bonus free throws apiece to close out the scoring.
'Sometimes I feel like the 'shadow' player," Henrichs said afterwards when told about the comment of how important she is to the team. "It makes you feel really good. It's nice to be appreciated. I think it's really cool that everyone does their part and as long as we're winning."
Henrichs talked about the players meeting at halftime.
"We felt that we had our worst first half. We knew we had to lock in and do what we do best. We grinded through the first half, so now we had to make the baskets, make the plays and just do something about it.
"I calmed down (in the second half) and sat in the post. They played one of their guards on me, so then it was easier for me to post up," she said. "It was nice they let me stay in my position, and I could direct the ball where I want it. It was a nice little drop step; a fourth-grader could do it. Lily fed me, (Nelson) fed me, Maddie. They were all great."
Eisenhower, which fell to the No. 1 ranked team in Division 1, Beaver Dam, six days earlier, incurred a rare two-game losing streak.
"Our defense has been tough all year," coach Gary Schmidt said. "I knew we could make it tough on them to score, and I knew they would make it tough on us. I was really disappointed coming out of the blocks. We had some really good looks, and they just didn't drop.
"I told the girls, sometimes they drop and sometimes they don't. I think we lost our confidence a little bit. Then, down the stretch when we really needed the shots, we tightened up a bit. We gave them too many second half opportunities. You talk about the little things in basketball, and they did the little things to beat us. They had more layups than we had decent shots."