The drought is over
UNION MILLS — LaCrosse head coach Chris McGowen could hardly speak after his team’s performance on Friday night. His voice was gone, but the endless amount of pride he had for his team was on full display.
“Any time you get into a rivalry contest like this, throw out the records,” McGowen said. “It’s gonna be a knockdown, drag-out fight. Both teams came ready to play. My girls played with a lot of heart and intensity.”
Those Tigers, led by a flame-throwing Morgan Wozniak, who poured in a game-high 21 points with five triples, pulled off the big Porter County Conference upset with a 48-46 victory on South Central’s Senior Night to cap a rivalry doubleheader sweep and to end the regular season with the Victory Kup in their possession for the first time in 27 years. The loss also cost S.C. (16-6, 5-2) a share of the PCC round-robin title, which goes to Morgan Township.
“You gotta give Morgan Wozniak credit,” Satellites coach Wes Bucher said. “She’s someone that averages about three points a game and she had 21 against us. It’s the same thing that happened to us when we played Boone Grove. We had a girl that averaged seven points and she comes out and scores 20 against us. It is what it is. Shots are gonna fall sometimes and you just gotta deal with it.”
Wozniak’s hot shooting was backed by dominant display from the Tigers (11-9, 4-3) on the backboards for much of the contest, taking a 22-7 advantage into the halftime break with a 25-23 advantage, despite a woeful passing exhibition against the S.C. defense, leading to 12 first-half turnovers.
“Everybody that got out onto the floor did something to help us pull out this two-point victory,” McGowen said. “All the credit in the world to coach Bucher and the job he’s done this year. For them to... win the PCC tournament shows just how tremendous a program he’s starting to build here.”
The Satellites hung around early and often thanks to the first-half turnovers for the Tigers, but the Satellites “couldn’t quite make the plays we needed to and it showed,” according to Bucher.
“We didn’t execute very well,” he said. “You’re coming off a game where you exert a lot of energy and to come out and think you’re gonna make a bunch of threes ... it’s not gonna happen. That’s the sign of a young team and you saw that.”
Coming off a thrilling one-point win in the PCC rournament final against Hebron that came down to the final shot just 24 hours prior, the Satellites honored their four seniors — McKenzie Hudspeth, Marissa Carr, Skyler Wildfong and Kate Rudolph — before the tip, leading to a two-day emotional journey catching up to them in the end. The quartet, plus Amber Wolf (12 points, four rebounds, three assists, three steals and a block) started and played the opening eight minutes together, trailing 14-12 after one.
“I’m not gonna make that as an excuse, but in the back of my mind, it’s sitting there,” Bucher said, noting the three weather postponements for the title game. “If we didn’t play last night, we would’ve had time to prepare a little bit and we’re not so dead-legged. Delanie (Gale) had three or four that just rimmed out. We don’t win last night without her. Abbie (Tomblin) had a few rim in and out. It was the way it was supposed to be tonight.”
The Satellites had just two second-half turnovers coming into the final eight minutes down 35-30 despite their bad luck from 3-point range, but two costly turnovers in the final 36.9 left the door open for the Tigers, who missed four free throws, including one with three seconds left, but Tomblin’s half-court heave felt short, sealing the upset for the visitors.
In the final four-plus minutes alone, the lead changed hands a handful of times, including a play where Katie Bell (11 points, nine rebounds and a steal) hit a pair of free throws tie the game at 43 and then Wozniak stole the inbounds pass and hit a tough baseline floater to give the Tigers a 45-43 advantage with about two minutes to play.
“It was just a total team effort and all I can say is that the fan support at LaCrosse is unbelievable,” McGowen said. “This was something special and I’m just glad to be a part of it. I’m really happy for our lone senior, Jackie Osornio, who was able to go get that Kup. These girls wanted it, they set their mind to something and they achieved the goal.”
LaCrosse 48, South Central 46
Morgan Wozniak scores a game-high 21 points to lead the Tigers to the upset.