After a loss to Pewaukee on Jan. 21, New Berlin Eisenhower's girls basketball team knew it had to win out in conference play and have New Berlin West lose at least once in order to have a chance at winning a share of a conference championship.
With a 50-34 victory over Pius XI on Feb. 7 and a 58-19 rout of Greendale on Feb. 10, the Lions ran their conference winning streak to six games. They also received the help they needed when Pewaukee downed New Berlin West on Feb. 7. Eisenhower can grab a share of its first Woodland West since 2012-13 with a win over the Vikings on Friday.
The Lions also collected a 47-38 nonconference win over Waukesha West on Feb. 11, moving to 16-5 on the season.
"Just like the Packers this year, we had to run the table, and we did," Eisenhower coach Gary Schmidt said. "It is in our hands now. We can control our own destiny, which is fun. I think our kids will be ready to play."
With a dominating second-half, Eisenhower opened last week with a crucial 50-34 win over Pius XI on Feb. 7. Leading 25-22 at halftime, the Lions outscored the Popes, 25-12, in the second half to pull away.
Sophomore guard Julia Hintz led Eisenhower with 18 points, eight rebounds and three assists. Senior forward Jasmyn Somarsingh scored 9 points, and junior forward Hannah Plockelman and junior guard Olivia Canady each added 6 points.
The Lions protected the ball, committing just eight turnovers. Eisenhower shot 45.0 percent (18-for-40) from the field and made 8 of 16 3-point tries, while Pius was just 5-for-18 from distance.
"I think (the Pius XI win) goes back to where our heads are right now," Schmidt said. "I think our heads are on straight. We're focused. We're trying to take care of the ball better. We made it tough for them to score, and when they did score, we came back in 30 or 40 seconds and got a good shot.
"We wore them down, and we weren't turning the ball over and giving them second shots. Our defense was phenomenal, and our offense was good enough to win the game. I hope we've made the turn now and are heading in the right direction."
Eisenhower, ranked No. 10 in the Division 2 coaches poll, had little trouble with Greendale on Feb. 10, building a 30-9 halftime lead en route to a 58-19 victory.
Twelve different players scored for the Lions, led by junior guard Katie Ludwig with 10 points. Plockelman added 8 points; Hintz and Canady each scored 7 points; and senior guard Jenna Loewus and junior guard Alicia Putney had 6 points apiece.
The Lions slowly pulled away from Waukesha West on Senior Night, using a 14-4 run to turn a 26-24 lead into a 40-28 advantage on a 3-pointer by Ludwig with 2:49 remaining. After attempting just one free throw in the first half, Eisenhower went 15-for-21 from the stripe in the second half to slowly pull away from the Wolverines.
"Our main objective in the locker room at halftime was to get to the free-throw line," Schmidt said. "It worked. I think that was the difference in the game ... this was a tough night with Senior Night. There was a lot of fog. It was not emotional. It was a tough one for us to get our kids going. They felt like they played well enough to stay ahead."
Ludwig scored 16 points to lead Eisenhower. Senior forward Abby Szukalski added 10 points, and Hintz finished with 9 points.
In order to complete the late-season run, the Lions must down New Berlin West, which beat Eisenhower, 41-33, on Jan. 13 and locked up a share of the Woodland West title with a win over Tosa West on Feb. 11. An Eisenhower win Friday would mean the two rivals share the conference crown.
"I expect us to play really well, I really do," Schmidt said. "We started basketball in June, and now we're playing for a conference co-championship. What more can you ask for? That's what we wanted to do. I hope the kids will embrace, and I think they will."