Oconto Falls girls basketball team opens season with home win

Panthers hold off late charge by Eagles
Morgan Rode
Sports Editor

The Oconto Falls girls basketball team opened the winter season by taking down Menominee Indian 46-39 on Nov. 17 in Oconto Falls.

Oconto Falls built a big lead in the first half behind some strong 3-point shooting before needing to hold off a valiant Menominee Indian comeback effort in the final half.

“It’s crazy, senior season, me and Kate (Pytleski) are definitely really excited and we really love our teammates so it feels really good to start the season with a win,” said Oconto Falls’ Ashlyn Allen.

Fittingly, it was the two seniors that got Oconto Falls going in the first half. Pytleski converted a contested shot near the rim on the team’s opening possession, and then Allen knocked in a 3-pointer to put the hosts up 5-0.

Menominee Indian’s first basket was a 3-pointer from Mariah Fish, making it 5-3 briefly before Oconto Falls took over. The Panthers scored the next 12 points.

The run began with a pair of free throws from Morgan Moynihan before Allen and Pytleski hit 3-pointers. Madeline Maloney joined the scoring parade with a bucket before Bailee Gorman capped the big spurt with a bucket.

A 3-pointer from Menominee Indian’s Kaysha Wilber put a halt to the run, but Oconto Falls then then went on an 11-1 run to push the lead to 21, 28-7.

Amber Otto scored five points, including another 3-pointer, to lead the Panthers on that spurt. Gorman, Moynihan and Allen all chipped in a bucket.

Menominee Indian settled in during the last four minutes of the half, with a 3-pointer from Anisa Peters stopping the run before Wilber hit another shot. Oconto Falls still led 32-13 at the break and seemed in complete control.

After dealing with some foul trouble in the opening half, Allen was tagged for her fourth foul early in the second half.

A couple free throws and 3-pointer from Peters got Menominee Indian within 14 points, but a triple from Gorman and baskets from Maloney and Pytleski put the hosts back up 19 again.

After a timeout with 12:03 to play, Menominee Indian started applying some full-court pressure. The pressure got to Oconto Falls, leading to more turnovers than attempted shots over the next several minutes. During that stretch, the Eagles slowly crept back into the game.

Fish and Natalie Peters converted shots to start an 8-0 run from the visitors. Emma Komanekin later hit a shot, and Fish and Wilber made a free throw each to cap the run.

“I feel like Menominee has a big thing of like being a second half team,” said Wilber. “We don’t start out too good but the next half we’re pretty good. We just cut it a little short every time.”

Oconto Falls’ Hannah Ludemann connected on a key 3-pointer to stop the Eagles’ run and the Panthers’ long scoring drought, but Wilber answered with a basket and then hit another shot to get the deficit down to 10, 42-32.

Maloney had the game’s next basket, but Menominee Indian still didn’t back down. A triple from Wilber made it a nine-point game with just under four minutes to play. A free throw from Otto was answered by two free throws from Fish with exactly three minutes left.

Oconto Falls was able to hold on for the win by holding Menominee Indian scoreless until the last final seconds of the contest.

Pytleski thought the Panthers got overconfident after going up big and then started to make mistakes as a result. “But we finished strong, so it was a good first game.”

The senior added that as the young, inexperienced group of players get more familiar with the varsity level of play, that the team will respond better to pressure. “We have to be more confident with the ball. Who wants it more, pretty much.”

While the comeback effort fell short, Menominee Indian was pleased with its finish to the contest and anticipate better results going forward.

“It’s really nice to see because I feel like we have a good season in store for us coming ahead — because most of our varsity is full of young girls and we can tell the heart they already have and all of the energy they’re giving us this early on,” said Fish on the team’s strong second half.

Menominee Indian 13 26 — 39

Oconto Falls 32 14 — 46

Oconto Falls (46): Hannah Ludemann 0-0 3, Ashlyn Allen 0-0 8, Kyndra Staidl 1-4 1, Morgan Moynihan 2-2 4, Bailee Gorman 0-2 7, Amber Otto 1-4 8, Madeline Maloney 0-1 8, Kate Pytleski 0-0 7.

Menominee Indian (39): Anisa Peters 0-2 6, Kaysha Wilber 3-6 17, Mariah Fish 5-8 10, Emma Komanekin 0-0 4, Natalie Peters 0-0 2.