BLOOMER — The halftime score said it all on Thursday night.
The Bloomer girls basketball team held Barron to two points in the first half to take a 16-2 lead into the break. The Blackhawks cruised from there to a 49-18 Heart O’ North Conference win over the Golden Bears with a well-rounded effort across the board.
“I think our quickness and our speed enable us to close out really well and not give them an opportunity to score,” Bloomer coach Nikki Seibel said. “Ball pressure, rebounds, wall up, do not bail them out on the free throw line. That’s kind of what we’ve been preaching all year.”
Barron (5-15, 4-8) wasn’t the only team to get out to a slow start though. Bloomer (16-3, 12-1) was scoreless for the first 4:19 of the game, and only managed to reach double figures on the scoreboard with 5:55 left in the first half.
The Blackhawks started off the second half much better than the first, going on a 13-0 run in the opening four minutes to pull out to a 29-2 lead. Barron finally started getting some shots to fall after that, but the result was already in hand for Bloomer.
“I think we just had to calm down and get into our game. Once we did that, we had some confidence. We were second-guessing ourselves a little bit on our shots (in the first half)...I said ‘Ladies, you’ve got to look to score and be confident in your abilities,’ and they did a much better job in the second half of that,” Seibel said.
Bloomer didn’t rely on any one player to get the job done, which has been common with the team this season. Sierra Raine led the team with nine points, and Isabella Jenneman added eight. Those two grabbed six and eight rebounds, respectively. Rilee Luzinski chipped in with seven points for the Blackhawks.
The win sets up a crucial conference finale with Hayward on Feb. 16, a contest that will essentially be a conference championship game. The Hurricanes hold a half game lead over Bloomer after Thursday’s results, and face Spooner on Friday before clashing with Bloomer with the conference title on the line.
“I think that atmosphere going into the playoffs is awesome,” Seibel said. “I’m really excited for the girls and myself to go up there and compete.”
If Hayward beats Spooner on Friday, the Hurricanes clinch at least a share of the Heart O’ North title. A loss to the Rails would make the matchup with Bloomer a winner-take-all conference championship game. For Bloomer, the path to a conference title couldn’t be clearer: Beat Hayward, and the Blackhawks will at the very least be co-champions.
That’s easier said than done though. In the first meeting between the two teams this season, Hayward won on a last-second shot to beat Bloomer 33-32 on the Blackhawks’ home court. Bloomer will need to go on the road to get the job done this time.
“I think this time around, defensively we’ve got to continue to do what we do and on offense we’ve got to be a little more aggressive. Take it to them, get to the free throw line and look for our shots,” Seibel said. “It’s always been a defensive battle (with Hayward), but if we can get our offense moving—and they’ve got a great defense—that’s going to be the difference in the game.”