Parker girls' surge edges Middleton
Four games into the 2012-13 girls' basketball season, Janesville Parker coach Tom Klawitter admitted that his Vikings' team—one picked to finish high in the Big Eight conference—is one still searching for an identity.
"We're going to have growing pains," said Klawitter. "There are times where we're going to have to lean on our three seniors who can help pull these girls along."
Thursday night was one of those nights. Seniors Ashley Hartwig and Dani Fugate were the catalysts to help the Vikings surge pass four-time defending Big Eight champion Middleton, 52-50, to stay in first place in the conference.
Fugate shook off a tough offensive night (three points) to dish off assists on both critical fourth-quarter baskets, while Hartwig, a first-team all-conference selection last year after averaging 17 points per game, scored a game-high 21 points.
She also gave the identity of this year's Parker (4-0, 3-0 Big Eight) team as "toughness."
"We have to stay mentally focused," said Hartwig. "We don't play selfish basketball."
Parker couldn't afford to once it found itself down four points in the final minute, but found a way using its new identity and a little bit of luck. After Fugate made the first of two free throws, she secured the miss off her second one, found sophomore Morgan McCulloch open beyond the perimeter and fist pumped when the sophomore banked in the shot to tie the score at 48.
"That turned the game around completely," said Fugate.
After the Vikings held Middleton (2-2, 2-1) to an empty possession (the Cardinals only scored on seven of 12 fourth-quarter possessions), Fugate dished to sophomore Paige Smith on the low block.
Smith was fouled as she made the basket and sank the ensuing free throw to put Parker up, 51-48, with 21.1 seconds left.
Hartwig's free throw on the next possession—she went 5-for-6 in the quarter—sealed it, as Parker outscored Middleton, 16-10, in the final quarter.
"We need to stay calm as a team," said Hartwig. "When we started tensing up, we weren't going to get (the lead) back."
Added Fugate: "We started to play Parker basketball."
Even with Middleton missing key component Liz McMahon, who has yet to play this season after breaking her finger before fall practice, the Cardinals used a 13-4 run that put Parker in a nine-point deficit early in the second half. Klawitter burned a timeout, told his team to relax and watched as they started to slowly chip away at the deficit like a tough-minded team would.
"We were playing not to lose," said Klawitter. "Once we were down nine, we were playing with nothing to lose."
PARKER 52, MIDDLETON 50
Parker (52)—Smith 11, Shepler 3, Fugate 3, Thompson 2, Hartwig 21, McCulloch 10.
Middleton (50)—Wolfe 3, Dean 11, McCauley 8, Blair 2, Staples 9, Jordee 15, Bunyan 2, Roach.
Parker 10 11 15 16—52
Middleton 13 14 13 10—50
Three-point goals—Parker 2 (McCulloch 2, Shepler), Middleton 3 (Wolf, Dean, Jordee). Free throws missed—Parker 8, Middleton 7. Fouled out—Jordee, Bunyan, Roach.