Hawks girls basketball team cruises past Truckers

Dustin Riese

In the back end of a boys and girls doubleheader Nov. 25, the Shawano Hawks girls basketball team couldn’t have asked for a much better result as they made quick work of the Clintonville Truckers. All it took was a 25-2 run in the first half to bust the game open; the Hawks held a 40-8 lead at the half before cruising to the 65-19 victory.

“Great win for our girls tonight,” head coach Ryan Koenig said. “They came out focused and ready to go, and we set the tone right from the opening tip. If we can continue to play like this and eliminate the mistakes, we will be a tough team to beat.”

Sophomore Leah Nordin had a huge game for the Hawks as she single-handedly outscored the entire Clintonville team. Her ability to use her size on the inside proved to be a matchup nightmare for the Truckers, while her soft shooting touch showed up all over the floor.

Nordin scored the game’s first three points before coming away with a steal and finding Abby Bystol to give Shawano an early 5-0 lead. That lead grew to 7-0 before Clintonville scored, but the Shawano offense was just getting started in what was a long night for Clintonville.

Holding a 15-4 lead after a pair of free throws by Natalie Sunita, it was the Hawks’ defense that took over to set the tone for the game. Whether it was their constant pressure that forced countless Clintonville turnovers, or their ability to limit the Truckers to one shot on the opposite end, Shawano took what was a semi-close game and turned it into a blowout affair with blink of an eye, using a 15-0 run to open up a 30-6 lead.

Trinity Papelka and Nordin played a part in that run, as did Braylyn Babino; it was all Shawano at this point. Had it not been for a pair of Clintonville free throws, the Hawks would’ve ended the half on a 25-0 run, but still settled for a 25-2 run as Shawano opened up a 40-8 lead over Clintonville after one half of play.

Koenig was impressed with his team’s defensive effort and felt that was the biggest key to getting things started for his girls.

“We wanted to pressure Clintonville, and the girls did a nice job of getting turnovers, which led to some easy points,” he said. “That isn’t something we can expect to happen every game. So when those opportunities present themselves, it is good to capitalize on them. If we can play defense hard for 36 minutes and as a team, we will be in every game, which is all you can ask for as a coach.”

Already with a massive lead, it was only a matter of time until a running clock would set in, but that didn’t matter to the Hawks as they continued to go to work on both ends of the floor. Nordin continued to have her way on the inside as she not only came up with several more buckets, but was also able to find some of her teammates to push the lead to 50-9 a few minutes into the half.

Babino later connected on a tough one to keep things rolling, with Maci Beyer extending the Hawks’ run to 14-1 to begin the second half and open up a 54-9 lead. Sunita put an end to that run only to have Babino answer with an open three from the left corner as the Hawks extended the lead 57-13.

Nordin and Babino picked up three more points to push the lead to 60-13 as it was time for the Hawks bench to come in and finish things off.

“Leah is very important to our team, and most opponents will try to take her away,” Koenig said. “If she can continue to trust her teammates and get assists, that will open things up for her later. She did that tonight, and our offense was at an elite level with everyone getting involved and knocking down their shots.”

With the Hawks’ bench slated to finish the game, Clintonville was hoping to get some late-game momentum. After some free throw attempts from Zoey Ferg and a made three by Elektra Fields, the Clintonville offense looked as good as they had all game, but it was too little, too late. Shawano got a couple of late buckets from Hannah Yeager on the inside and Olivia Pyawasay from deep to close out their scoring.