By Paul Lecker
WISCONSIN RAPIDS – The defending Division 5 state champion Wisconsin Rapids Assumption girls basketball team will live to see another day after pulling out a 61-60 win over Athens in a WIAA Division 5 regional final Saturday night at Assumption High School.
After six lead changes in the second half, the Royals were able to snag the wild win as sophomore Kendall Duellman sank a 5-foot shot from the baseline with 42 seconds left and Assumption held off two Athens’ possessions to qualify for sectionals.
No. 1 seed Assumption (24-3) will face No. 3 seed and Marawood Conference South Division rival Edgar (20-7) in a Division 5 sectional semifinal Thursday at Wausau West High School. The game will be broadcast live at zaleskisports.com at 7 p.m.
Edgar slipped past No. 2 seed Wild Rose 53-52 on Saturday. Assumption swept the season series from Edgar, winning 45-29 on Dec. 7 and 37-33 on Jan. 27.
“We came into the game knowing we had to work real hard,” senior guard Ainara Sainz de Rozas said. “We played good defense at the end and it was a really great team effort.”
Athens started strong and led 23-11 with 6½ minutes left in the first half.
The Bluejays led 32-26 at halftime and Assumption came out of the intermission on a mission.
Kayla Kerkman and Duellman made 3-pointers, and Sainz de Rozas and Sarah Shaw scored in a 10-3 run over the first 4:06 of the half to push the Royals in front at 36-35.
Athens responded with a 6-0 run, including two baskets from Jazelle Hartwig, to regain the lead and start the back-and-forth that went to the finish.
Assumption’s frantic pace on both ends led to a 7-0 run in just 32 seconds as Shaw made a 3-pointer, and Sainz de Rozas and Anna Schooley scored to put the Royals back up at 48-42.
Athens fought back again, taking a 52-51 lead after a basket by Sydney Coker.
Assumption went nearly 5 minutes without a field goal before a fastbreak layup by Addi Vollert made it 53-52 with 3:24 to go.
Following two free throws by Duellman, Athens’ Celina Ellenbecker drilled a 3-pointer from the right elbow to tie it at 5-55 with 2:50 to go.
A rebound and basket by McKennzie Schug and a free throw 20 seconds later by Ellenbecker gave Athens a 60-59 lead with 56 seconds left and the Bluejays looked primed to pull off the upset.
That was until Duellman stepped up after receiving pass in the right corner, stopped and popped to it what proved to be the game-winner with 42 seconds left.
Athens called a timeout with 29 seconds left and managed to get the ball inside, but missed two contested shots and the ball was knocked out of bounds to Assumption with 1.9 seconds left.
The Royals mishandled the inbounds pass, giving Athens one final shot, although it was 80 feet from the basket. A half-court heave fell well short and Assumption held on for the one-point victory.
Addison Lavicka went 9-for-10 from the free throw in the second half and finished with a team-high 19 points for Athens (22-5). Hartwig added 12 pints.
Sainz de Rozas finished with 14 points, Duellman had 12 and Kerkman 10 for Assumption.
“Hats off to Athens,” Assumption coach Ryan Klein said. “Our girls get to play another week of basketball, and I feel like Athens deserves to play another week of basketball too.”
Royals 61, Bluejays 60
Athens 32 28 - 60
Assumption 26 35 - 61
ATHENS (60): Addison Lavicka 5 9-10 19, Celina Ellenbecker 1 1-2 4, Jazelle Hartwig 6 0-4 12, Sophia Coker 2 4-7 8, Sydney Coker 2 1-2 5, Elizabeth Van Rixel 1 1-2 4, McKennzie Schug 4 0-1 8. FG: 21. FT: 16-28. 3-pointers: 2 (Ellenbecker 1, Van Rixel 1). Fouls: 15. Fouled out: Hartwig. Record: 22-5.
ASSUMPTION (61): Sarah Shaw 3 0-0 8, Ainara Sainz de Rozas 5 4-5 14, Addi Vollert 3 0-0 7, Kendall Duellman 4 2-2 12, Izzy Jungwirth 0 2-2 2, Kayla Kerkman 3 1-2 10, Cristin Casey 0 0-0 0, Anna Schooley 2 0-3 4, Maleia Kolo 2 0-0 4. FG: 22. FT: 9-14. 3-pointers: 8 (Kerkman 3, Duellman 2, Shaw 2, Vollert 1). Fouls: 18. Fouled out: Casey. Record: 24-3.