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Girls basketball: EPC vs. SV rivalry continues

EPC's Lexi Diesing goes up for a layup against SV's Morgan Rustad. The EPC senior led all scorers with 15 points in Tuesday night's Dunn-St. Croix matchup, and also recorded eight rebounds, three steals and one assist. Katie Davidson / RiverTown Multimedia1 / 2
SV's Lexi Johansen was six-for-six from the free-throw line and led the Cardinals in scoring with 11 points in her team's 43-47 loss to the EPC Wolves. Katie Davidson / RiverTown Multimedia2 / 2

The Elmwood/Plum City versus Spring Valley girls basketball rivalry has only heightened so far this season.

The two Dunn-St. Croix teams met in their first 2017-18 matchup on Tuesday, Jan. 9 that ended in double overtime. Spring Valley eliminated EPC in the 2016-17 playoffs, but the Wolves were the superior team in Tuesday night's 47-43 game.

Fans were kept on their feet in the Plum City High School gymnasium for the game that featured 14 lead changes and eight ties.

EPC (4-6, 2-4) took the first lead with a Rowan Rupakus free-throw, but SV soon got on the board after Camryn Wegener drove the baseline and layed in the first Cardinals bucket of the night. SV's lead was extended with a Brianna O'Brien three, and the Wolves didn't connect from the field for the first 10 minutes of play.

EPC's Tayler Whipple scored her team's first field goal of the night with 7:46 left in the first half to narrow SV's lead to 5-3, but the Cardinals scored the next three points of the game with a Brenna Schreiber free throw and a Lexi Johansen three-pointer.

Unable to connect on the offensive end, the Wolves decided to create some opportunities for themselves defensively by putting on a full-court press, which resulted in two straight SV turnovers. Rupakus and Lexi Diesing both turned backcourt steals into layups, and after a Tessa Cipriano free throw, Katie Feuker assisted Diesing on a layup to tie the game at 9-9. Four Diesing free-throws gave EPC their largest lead of the first half, but SV's Sandy Bune and Schreiber controlled the rest of the half.

A Schreiber basket was followed by a Bune mid-range jumper, then the duo connected on the last first-half bucket, which was scored by Schreiber and assisted by Bune. Schreiber, a junior, scored seven of SV's 17 first-half points, and gave her team the momentum they needed to take a four-point halftime lead.

Johansen continued SV's run by hitting a three to start the second half, but it was matched with an Ellie Funk three-pointer on the other end.

After a first half that saw little dribble penetration, EPC's guards took it up a notch in the second half to get things going against SV's man-to-man defense. With buckets from Katie Feuker and Funk, the game was tied once again at 20-20 before Hannah Feuker scored four straight points for the Wolves who took a four-point lead with 9:07 left in regulation. In addition, EPC's Jessica Martin found Diesing who made a layup, got fouled, and sunk her free-throw to give the Wolves their largest lead of the night at 29-22.

But the Cardinals were still determined to clinch their first win of the season.

Wegener, O'Brien and Bune led a 9-2 run for the Cardinals that brought both teams to 31 with little time left in the game, but shortly after scoring four points for her team, O'Brien fouled out and sent EPC's Alyssa Peterson to the line. Peterson's two-for-two shooting at the line prompted Cardinals' head coach Sean Hoolihan to call a timeout with 1:42 left on the clock.

Out of the timeout, Johansen took control of SV's offense and drove through traffic in the lane to get to the charity stripe where she also went two-for-two to tie the game at 35-35 with 46 seconds to go. Both teams were given chances to finish the game in the final minute of play, but neither were able to capitalize on their opportunities, therefore, four more minutes were added onto the clock for what would be both teams' first overtime competition of the season.

To change things up, SV came out in a 2-3 zone to start the extra play time, but fouled Rupakus on a three-pointer and sent her to the line where she went one-for-three to take the first lead of overtime. Bune responded with a steal and layup, but Rupakus was once again fouled and sent to the line and this time made both of her FT attempts. Although Rupakus was successful on her second trip to the free-throw line, the Wolves were six-for-11 in overtime attempts.

After another Wegener basket, it was Johansen who again came through at the charity stripe to tie the game up at 41-41 with just 25 seconds to go. The SV senior shot a perfect six-for-six from the free-throw line in Tuesday night's game.

EPC came up with another backcourt steal with 10 seconds left on the clock, but were not able to score a point before time ran out.

Though exhausted, both teams welcomed double overtime.

Diesing won the third and final tip of the game, which led to another Hannah Feuker basket. SV was unsuccessful in their first possession of double OT, but Bune stole the ball from an EPC opponent at the top of the key, and converted her steal into a layup to tie the game at 43-43.

Diesing would score the next basket of the night after coming down with an offensive rebound, and the Wolves sailed away with their two-point lead that was extended to four points with two free-throw makes from Katie Feuker.

The 44-minute game was finally decided at 47-43 in EPC's favor.

"We cracked a couple of times, but they did too, and luckily they did one more time than we did," EPC head coach Shaughn Laehn said following the game. "That's what it amounted to."

Laehn said he thought his team became more composed as each overtime passed, but said that his players lacked the confidence they need to pull away in regulation.

"I don't think that we were over-confident at all, I just think that we lacked confidence," Laehn said. "As we don't get successful or don't make things happen, we just kind of drag ourselves down. We have to overcome that; it's just mental stuff that I have to work on in building them up."

Laehn's team continues its season on Friday, Jan. 12 at Glenwood City, then plays again on Saturday, Jan. 13 at Alma/Pepin.

Coach Hoolihan was also proud of the way his team played against their rivals despite the final outcome.

"When you're not in situations like [double overtime] a lot, which these girls have not been, it's hard to play those [games]," Hoolihan said, "but I was just proud of the grit that they had and how they kept fighting."

Now 0-11, the Cardinals have gotten used to losing games this season, but Hoolihan said his team is still looking to "get the monkey off their back."

"We have a good competitive crew," Hoolihan said. "We'll bounce back and give Boyceville our best shot on Friday. That game could be a dog fight, too."

Despite his team's unideal first half of the season, Hoolihan and his team still cling to the positives that have come out of playing the game of basketball this year.

"The cool thing about basketball is that when you get beat, you have another opportunity to get back up," Hoolihan said, "and the champions are always the ones who just keep getting back up.

"We talk about being champions in life, and setting themselves up to be really good bosses some day, to be good wives some day, to be good moms some day, to run a company some day, to whatever they want to do someday. We're trying to set them up to be champions."

SV will continue to play like champions on Friday when they host Boyceville at 7:15 p.m.

Scoring for the Wolves: Diesing 15; H. Feuker, Rupakus 8; Funk 6; K. Feuker, Peterson 4; Whipple 2.

Scoring for the Cardinals: Johansen 11; Wegener 10; Bune, O'Brien, Schreiber 7; Cipriano 1.

Other Tuesday night scores:

Prescott girls basketball team 72, Ellsworth 40

Ellsworth boys basketball 52, Osceola 51