Gibraltar girls basketball coach Devin Thomas was confident the Vikings were a much better team than the one which lost to Gillett by 20 points on Jan. 7. For most of the rematch on Friday he was correct.
Gibraltar opened a 14-point lead in the second half, but the Wolves outscored the Vikings by 17 points in the last 12 minutes to pull out a 59-56 win in the second round of the Division 5 playoffs.
“This one stings. We had a double digit lead for most of the game and that hurts,” Thomas said. “But this one especially hurts because it’s the last game for Abbi and Nina Sitte – great players and leaders. It hurts because we were so close and the team played so hard. But that is sports and that’s why we love it so much, it’s the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. It’s why it means so much. But it definitely hurts.”
After Sophia Alexander split a pair of free throws to put Gibraltar up 37-23, the Wolves went on a 13-5 run to cut the Vikings’s advantage to 41-36. Abbi Sitte scored five straight points to put the Vikings up 46-36, and after the Wolves cut the lead to 49-45, Sitte scored on a drive to put Gibraltar up 51-45.
The Wolves – who hadn’t led since they were up 4-2 early in the game – took the lead for good at 53-51 on a jump shot from Carissa Schaal. Gillett stretched the lead to 57-52, but baskets by Alexander and Audrey Viste cut the Wolves lead to 57-56 with four seconds to play. Aubrey DeBauch’s two free throws put the Wolves up 59-56 and the Vikings’ missed a long shot at the buzzer that would have tied the game.
“I think we had a great game plan that we really executed well. We got them out of their zone and were in control,” Gibraltar coach Devin Thomas said. “I think they stayed aggressive and we started to get a little tentative. We turned the ball over a little bit and couldn’t hit the outside shots. At the end of the day we gave up 41 points in the second half and didn’t do well enough at the free throw line. We needed to knock those shots down and get more stops on defense.”
With the score tied 6-6 early in the game, the Vikings went on a 15-0 run to take a 21-6 lead with 8:30 left in the first half. Abbi Sitte and Sage Krause scored six points and Maggie Maroney added three during the run. The Vikings held a 28-18 lead at halftime.
“We were prepared for them this time around and the girls executed really well,” Thomas said about the Vikings’ performance in the opening half. “We knocked down shots and we were great moving on defense. We were going inside and out and rebounding well offensively. They gained a little momentum going into the half and we just never got the energy back that we had in the first half.”
Sitte led the Vikings (14-10) in scoring with 15 points and Krause added 12. Moroney chipped in nine and Alexander scored eight.
“I’m extremely proud of the girls. They fought till the bitter end and that is what they did all season,” Thomas said. “Through injuries, losing streaks and halftime deficits, they never gave up. I am honored to have coached this team and these seniors, especially in my first year. I am so proud of their effort and how they represented the team, the program and the school. The school and the community should be very proud of these girls.”