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Alma-Pepin rallies to win regional title

Ali Ritscher makes a pass during Saturday's regional final.

DURAND - Down 30-19 early in the third quarter, Alma-Pepin's prep girls' basketball team rallied for a 60-51 win over Eleva-Strum Saturday afternoon to win the WIAA Division 4 Durand Regional.

The Eagles only scored 17 points in the first half and trailed by 11 with several players in foul trouble. But a full court press helped force turnovers the Eagles converted into points. They also sank six three-pointers compared to Cardinals' lone one and that came at the 3:29 mark of the fourth quarter. Alma-Pepin outscored Eleva-Strum 41-21 from that point in the third quarter to win the game.

The Eagles' superior depth outlasted the Cardinals as 11 of their players scored at least a point compared to just six for their opponents and helped them to overcome the foul trouble they were in. They were also aided by a wretched 13-for-32 showing at the line by Eleva-Strum.

Ellie Ludwigson led Alma-Pepin in scoring with 21 points and Ali Ritscher scored eight points. Ronnie Moltzau had 13 points to lead the Cardinals. Eleva-Strum winds up its season at 16-9 overall while Alma-Pepin improves to 17-6 and plays Thursday at 7 p.m. in Osseo in the La Crosse Central Sectional semifinals vs. No. 7 ranked Independence, 23-1 overall.

Only two of last year's four champions are still alive after the regional round of the girls' state basketball tourney. Division-Three champion Amherst lost to top-seeded Auburndale 34-to-22 on Saturday. Grafton, the Division-Two champ from a year ago, beat top-seeded Whitefish Bay during the weekend. And Division-One champ Milwaukee Vincent remains in the tournament, along with seven of the division's eight top-seeds. All four A-P number-ones are still alive -- De Pere, Monroe, Cuba City, and Minong Northwood. Twelve-of-the-16 top seeds made it through their brackets in Division-Two, and so did 10 in D-Three and 11 in Division-Four. Thirty-two Division-One teams are still going for a state title, along with 16 apiece in the lower three divisions. Sectional play begins Thursday in all but Division-One. The other sectionals begin on Friday. The girls' state tourney opens a week from Thursday in Madison.

Pepin claimed a share of its first regional title in girls' basketball since 2000.