Redemption could not have come at a better moment.
After dropping two Big Rivers Conference games to Rice Lake — most recently on Feb. 16 in the final regular-season matchup — the Menomonie girls’ basketball team battled tooth-and-nail to stake their claim as WIAA Division 2 Regional Champions with a one-point, 59-58 triumph over the Warriors on Tuesday at Rice Lake High School.
In a matchup that saw 18-lead changes, every single point mattered — and made the difference — as Kylie Mogen’s two charity shots brought the Mustangs up 59-56 with just six seconds remaining. A Warrior scramble down court netted them two points, just one point shy of knotting the score to overtime and the regional championship.
“Our girls just kept playing, knowing that it was going to be hard ... and we found a way in the end,” Menomonie head coach Storm Harmon said. “A great high school basketball game. Both teams should be proud of their effort and determination.”
Though Rice Lake had a one-point lead at halftime, Menomonie successfully executed its plan of stopping BRC Player of the Year Brooke Olson at the net, holding her to just five first half points. However, Olson broke open in the second half to score 19 points.
Mogen had good looks in the first half for the Mustangs, racking up 13 points with four field goals, one 3-pointer and two freebies. She wrapped up the second half with a pair of triples, one double and the late two free throws which gave the Mustangs a 3-point advantage at the tail end of the game and finishing the night with a team high of 23 points.
Tyra Boettcher followed Mogen with 18 points, connecting for six 2-pointers, one 3-pointer and a freebie. Elle Hemauer found the net for eight points, Lindsey Johnson ended with six and Destiny Haldeman chipped in two field goals in the first half for four points on the night.
Menomonie advanced to play No. 1 Onalaska Thursday at La Crosse Central High School in the sectional semi-final, where the Mustangs’ season came to an end at the hands of the Hilltoppers in a 65-56 defeat.
Last season, Menomonie defeated Onalaska 59-53 in the sectional semi-final to then meet with Hortonville in the sectional championship game, where their season ended in a 74-44 loss. Onalaska advances to play Hortonville in the sectional championship match Saturday in Steven’s Point.