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Prep Girls Basketball: Givens, Zenner lead Chi-Hi to nonconference victory over Holmen
Prep Girls Basketball | Chi-Hi 65, Holmen 44

Prep Girls Basketball: Givens, Zenner lead Chi-Hi to nonconference victory over Holmen

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The Chi-Hi girls basketball team has been battling.

Battling injuries. Battling illness. Battling strong teams.

The Cardinals battled their way to a 65-44 victory over Holmen on Monday evening.

Caelan Givens scored a season-high 20 points in her first game back from a knee injury while Alexis Zenner added 13 points and Aaliyah McMillan scored 12 points for the Cardinals.

“It’s always hard to miss games in general, especially the senior season coming to the end you know there’s lasts coming up,” Givens said. “It’s definitely hard but I trust my teammates and they did such a good job.”

Givens had one full practice on Saturday before making her return for the team’s final nonconference game of the season.

Chi-Hi used an early 10-0 run to take a lead it wouldn’t relinquish.

Holmen (12-7) cut the gap to five to 19-14 with seven minutes and 47 seconds left in the first half, but the Cardinals limited the Vikings to just one made field goal for the rest of the half to lead 30-19 at the break. Chi-Hi scored 14 of the first 16 points of the second half, the final points of that run coming from a 3-pointer by Givens.

The University of Wisconsin-Green Bay signee Givens missed three games due to injury and played well in her return to the lineup.

“It has actually helped us, not that I don’t want to play with Caelan, it has helped us to not have her for a couple games to figure out how to move the ball,” Chi-Hi coach Becca Bestul said. “I think sometimes we rely too much on her and it was the type of adversity that we needed at that minute.

“It wasn’t fun to play without her but tonight you could see the girls had figured out how to pass the ball, figured out how to move the ball around.”

Long-range shooting kept Holmen in the game early as the Vikings made four 3-pointers in the first 9:36 of the contest. The Vikings didn’t make their first 2-point basket until 1:40 left before halftime on a bucket from Kaylin Metzler. Overall Holmen made 12 total field goals, seven from 3-point range as the team struggled from inside without 6-foot-1 forward Lexie Jeffers, who was injured in last Friday’s 59-26 win at Tomah.

“They’re a good team. They’re better than their record,” Holmen coach Nate Johnson said of Chi-Hi. “They’re 12-8 and I think they’re a much better team than that and I think they’ll be dangerous in the playoffs.

“I like playing them. We know it’s going to be a physical game. The Big Rivers schools are great for us for playing.”

Emily Porath had a team-high 10 points for the Vikings including two of the team’s early 3-pointers. Braidyn Reutten scored seven of her nine points in the second half.

The Cardinals enter their final two games of the regular season in an unfamiliar position. Chi-Hi (12-8, 6-4) is third in the Big Rivers Conference standings, eliminated from title contention as River Falls (16-2, 9-0) and Hudson (14-5, 9-2) own the top spots. It will mark the first time since the 2010-11 season the Cardinals have not won at least a share of the league title and the team is focused on getting healthy and making a playoff push. Givens said the team has been utilizing shorter, more intense practices down the stretch to be ready for the playoffs.

“I definitely feel like that has helped a lot because it makes our practices a lot harder,” Givens said. “We’re definitely so competitive in our practices and our JV is so competitive with us which helps a lot. We’re all upperclassmen, most of us are seniors and we definitely want to make a deep playoff run and that’s something we have our eyes set on.”

The Cardinals have won at least 11 games in 18 consecutive seasons and in 20 of the last 21 seasons overall, the later streak dating back to Bestul’s time as a player with the program.

“I told the girls last week there’s one goal we can’t meet necessarily at the point, but there are some others that we can,” Bestul said.

Chi-Hi plays at Eau Claire Memorial on Thursday before closing the regular season by hosting River Falls on Feb. 21.

Caelan Givens scored a season-high 20 points and Alexis Zenner added 13 points as the Chi-Hi girls basketball team earned a 65-44 win over Holmen on Monday evening.

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