PRAIRIE FARM — The McDonell girls basketball team once again used opportunistic offense and tenacious defense to frustrate a talented foe.
This time, the performance is taking the Macks to a place they’ve never been — the WIAA Division 5 state tournament.
Lauryn Deetz finished with a game-high 19 points on offense, and the Macks held Prairie Farm well under its season average in a 72-53 Division 5 sectional championship victory over the Panthers on Saturday afternoon, clinching the first trip to the WIAA state tournament for the program.
McDonell (12-3) earned a No. 2 seed for Thursday’s state tournament in La Crosse and will face No. 3 Wisconsin Rapids Assumption (14-7) in the second of two semifinal games at 12:35 p.m. at the La Crosse Center.
Deetz was joined in double figures by Emily Cooper with 14 points and Destiny Baughman with 12 as the Macks (12-3) battled through a slow start as the Panthers threw a curveball McDonell’s way. The Macks were expecting Prairie Farm to open the game with a zone defense, the same way Northwood did on Thursday in McDonell’s 50-35 sectional semifinal win. But the Panthers played man-to-man and once the Macks adapted they were able to build a 42-33 halftime lead before pulling away further to the win.
“We got down but like our whole season we faced adversity and we didn’t lose our composure and we played excellent basketball,” McDonell coach Don Cooper said.
Prairie Farm entered Saturday’s game as the top seed in the sectional and was ranked third in the final Associated Press Division 5 state poll of the regular season as the Panthers won the Central Lakeland Conference championship. Prior to Saturday, the only team to defeat the Panthers was 21-1 Unity, the champion of the West Lakeland.
The Macks active full-court defense held Prairie Farm to what was tied for its third lowest scoring total of the season. Eryn Bates scored 15 points for Prairie Farm (19-3).
“The whole thing is they’re playing like a team,” Cooper said of the effort. “That’s the best part about this. They’re playing all together, unified. If one person has a bad game, the other person picks them up.”
Senior Anna Geissler had eight points and Marley Hughes finished with seven in the win.
“We’re a very young team but our coaches said at the beginning of the year control what you can control and we’ve always had that mentality,” Geissler said, “just trying to keep everybody calm on the floor and doing what we have to do.”
Saturday was the third appearance in the sectional finals since McDonell moved to the WIAA in 2000. McDonell lost to Seneca 50-41 in 2012 and fell to future two-time Big Ten Conference Player of the Year Megan Gustafson and South Shore 59-55 in 2015 in coach Cooper’s first season leading the team.