By Steve Pilz For Zaleski Sports
AUBURNDALE – Just one night after blistering the nets in a win over Stratford, the Auburndale Apaches struggled from the field and dropped a WIAA Division 4 regional final to Stevens Point Pacelli 48-46 on Saturday night at Auburndale High School.
It marked the third time in as many years that the Apaches have lost to Pacelli in the tournament, all in tight games. Pacelli won two years ago 46-45 and last year 29-25.
The Apaches came in as the No. 1 seed and the Cardinals the five-seed.
That mattered little on this night.
After leading for most of the second half by five or six points, Pacelli began to falter down the stretch turning the ball over on five consecutive trips.
Trailing by six, the Apaches’ Paityn Hamus cut the lead to four with a lay-up at the three-minute mark. Hailey Grimm’s score got Auburndale within two on the next possession.
Sarah Mueller hit two free throws for the Cards to make it 46-42 before Grimm scored another to make it a two-point game again.
Pacelli called timeout with 1:18 left, but Auburndale’s defense forced another turnover. Natalie Aue drained a 16-footer from the elbow to tie the game at 46-46.
The teams exchanged turnovers and Auburndale had a couple shots at the lead, but couldn’t connect, giving the ball to the Cardinals with 18.5 seconds remaining.
There was little doubt where Pacelli would turn and after a hop, skip and a jump (stop), Mueller got her runner to fall with just 3 seconds left.
Auburndale’s inbound play was run to perfection and got Natalie Aue a good look from about 22 feet, but the shot bounced off the rim and Pacelli held on for the upset.
Auburndale started off just like it had the previous night, with Georgi Schmutzer scoring the Apaches’ first eight points and running out to an 8-2 lead. The Cardinals finally settled down taking their first lead at the 4:45 mark of the first half on a hoop by Mueller.
Auburndale righted the ship shortly thereafter and took a 21-17 lead going into halftime.
Pacelli took the lead in the second half with two quick buckets and a 3-pointer from the versatile Mueller.
The Apaches shot just 18 for 67 on the night and 3-for-20 from 3-pointer range. Auburndale coach Dale Aue summed up the performance to a tee.
“We couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn with a hand full of rice,” Aue said. “Our team played hard tonight.”
Mueller came into the game averaging nearly 22 points per game and she didn’t disappoint, putting up 24, including the game-winner.
Natalie Aue led the Apaches with 10.
Pacelli had just four players in the scoring column, a fact not lost on Cardinals coach Jake Jalling.
“It’s funny” started Jalling. “Before the game I was asked if we needed scoring from more than four players, because last night we had four players score, as well.
“I told the players before the game. It’s just the way it is. We’ve got six girls in our rotation. Sometimes we play seven. Sarah’s (Mueller) a heck of a player. What she means to the program is a whole other story in itself. But (we have) Emma (Van Order) and Sammie (Miller), and a supporting cast that can step up whenever they need to. You can’t ask for more than that I suppose.”
Pacelli (16-8) moves on to a WIAA Division 4 sectional semifinal against No. 2 seed Marathon (17-7) on Thursday at Adams-Friendship High School. Auburndale’s season ends with a 17-7 record.
Cardinals 48, Apaches 46 Pacelli 17 31 – 48 Auburndale 21 25 – 46 PACELLI (48): Samantha Miller 4 3-3 11. Ashley Strizel 2 0-0 4, Sarah Mueller 7 9-12 24, Emma Van Order 2 4-6 9. FG: 15-33. FT: 15-33. 3-pointers: 2 (E. Van Order, Mueller). Turnovers: 14. Fouled out: none Record: 16-8. AUBURNDALE (46): Taylor Stanton 1 0-0 3, Paityn Hamus 2 4-7 8, Georgi Schmutzer 3 0-0 8, Isabelle Hilber 1 0-0 2, Kaitlyn Kundinger 4 0-0 8, Hailey Grimm 4 3-5 7, Natalie Aue 5 0-0 10. FG: 18-67. FT: 7-13. 3-pointers: 3 (Schmutzer 2, Stanton). Turnovers: 4. Fouled out: none. Record: 17-7.