By Steve Pilz For Zaleski Sports
AUBURNDALE – It’s pretty safe to say that the Auburndale girls basketball team started a little slow Friday night in their WIAA Division 4 regional semifinal game against Marawood Conference foe Stratford at Auburndale High School.
It’s also safe to say that once the Apaches found their groove, about three-fourths of the way through the first half, it was all over.
Auburndale shot lights out from that point on as it cruised to a 47-30 win, its third of the year over the Tigers.
The top-seed Auburndale (17-6) will host No. 5 seed Stevens Point Pacelli (15-8) in a D-4 regional final at 7 p.m. Saturday. Pacelli upset No. 4 seed and defending sectional champion Colby 56-52 on Friday. The Cardinals had trailed by 11 at the half against the Hornets.
The Apaches’ Georgi Schmutzer hit the game’s first shot, a 3-pointer, on her team’s first possession, which would be a harbinger of things to come.
Stratford would put up a good fight and led early on 8-3 with almost six minutes gone.
Auburndale took their second lead of the game at 11-10 at the 6:58 mark on a basket by Natalie Aue. That was a lead they would never relinquish.
Schmutzer hit her second three-pointer two possessions later, followed by a Hailey Grimm triple.
Schmutzer would drill two more threes before the half ended and when the smoke cleared, the Apaches were on a 24-10 run that saw them leading 27-18 at intermission.
“We played well,” said first-year Auburndale coach Dale Aue. “We shot the ball well. That was good to see. That was probably the best we shot the ball from beyond the arc all season.
“We also had good defense. We battled hard. We did a good job shutting their bigs down. We played them a couple weeks ago too. They’re a tough team. Tough too, because of their size.”
The second half looked more like a highlight reel than anything else: if you were an Auburndale fan.
Of the Apaches first 11 shots in the half, eight of them were 3-point attempts and six went in. Schmutzer made two more, and Natalie Aue, Taylor Stanton, Isabelle Hilber and Kaitlin Kundinger also made one as Auburndale took complete control.
The Tigers didn’t have a chance.
“It was their night,” conceded Stratford coach Tammie Christopherson. “That’s how the story is written sometimes. Pretty hard to combat a team that shot that well tonight. I hand it to them.
“They hit us from all angles and as soon as we’d make a little dent, it was like ‘boom’, they’d hit us again with someone else. Hats off to them for that. We played our hearts out and gave everything we had. We came up short on the offensive end and they thrived. I wish them the best of luck. They’re great conference opponents. We’ll mourn this a little but then get back in the gym. We say goodbye to two wonderful seniors (Paige Kolbeck and Ashley O’Neil) and we’ve got some good returning players, so back to work.”
Schmutzer was about as hot as you can be, shooting 6 of 10 overall, including 6 of 8 from beyond the arc as she was the only Apache in double digits with 18 points.
“I felt really good,” said Schmutzer, the junior sharp-shooter. “I haven’t been shooting the greatest, so that really helped my confidence.”
When asked about her shooting origins she said ‘Definitely, my dad.”
“We’ve lost to Pacelli the past two years, so we’re looking for redemption, for sure,” Schmutzer said of Saturday’s matchup.
Coach Aue concluded, “We’ve been watching tape on Pacelli. We’ve seen them play. It’ll be another good game.”
Tanaya Schillinger led Stratford (10-14) with 14 points.
Apaches 47, Tigers 30 Stratford 18 12 – 30 Auburndale 27 20 – 47 STRATFORD (30): Tanaya Schillinger 6 0-0 14, Lauren Kraus 1 0-1 1, Makenna Leonhardt 1 1-2 3, Breanna Ackley 2 0-0 5, Emily Hughes 2 3-4 7. FG: 11-34. FT: 5-13. 3-pointers: 3-10 (Schillinger 2, Ackley). Turnovers 13. Fouled out: none. Record: 10-14. AUBURNDALE (47): Taylor Stanton 1 0-0 3, Paityn Hamus 1 0-0 2, Georgi Schmutzer 6 0-0 18, Isabelle Hilber 2 0-0 5, Kaitlyn Kundinger 1 0-0 3, Hailey Grimm 2 0-0 5, Natalie Aue 4 0-0 9. Annamarie Aue 1 0-0 2. FG: 18-39. FT: 0-2. 3-pointers: 11-19 (Schmutzer 6, Grimm, N. Aue, Stanton, Hilber, Kundinger). Turnovers: 12. Fouled out: Stanton. Record: 17-6.