By Steve Pilz For Zaleski Sports
STRATFORD – The Stratford girls basketball team will move on the WIAA playoffs after dismantling No. 9 seed Spencer 50-20 in a Division 4 regional quarterfinal on Tuesday at Stratford High School.
The eight-seed Tigers (11-13) travel to Auburndale (16-6) on Friday night to take on the top-seeded Apaches. The game begins at 7 p.m.
Brenna Ackley, who leads the Tigers in scoring at 16.4 points per game, did just that again, finishing with 21 on 8-for-11 shooting with three 3-pointers and a pair of free throws.
Ackley’s 13-point first half doomed Spencer early on and to say the Rockets struggled would be an understatement. They garnered just two field goals in the first half and trailed 26-6 at the intermission.
“We were a team that that progressively got better all year,” said Stratford coach Tammie Christopherson. “We’ve had highs and lows, but our ladies are putting it together at the right time of year. You want a team to peak at tournament time and I think that’s what happening with us right now. The sky’s the limit. The way the sectional played out, we beat the No. 2 seed (Marathon), we played the top seed (Wausau Newman Catholic) to within four. We are capable of anything right now. We can definitely make a run at this right now.”
Hard to argue with that as the Tigers continued to hammer the visitors in the second half.
Spencer (7-16) made just three field goals in the second half and finished a paltry 5-for-34 from the field for the game, but their coach found a silver-lining within the loss.
“One thing I will always say about these girls is that they never, ever will give up,” said first-year Spencer coach Krystal Weier. “They played hard against the obvious size that Stratford had and the size we didn’t have. They never gave up. We will never get out-worked and they have proved that every game day.”
“We’re gonna miss Aryiah (Schuh), our senior, but I see a ton of growth in this team as we are young. So, I can’t wait to see how they improve throughout the summer and come back next year.”
Emily Hughes proved an able one-two punch to Ackley, shooting 5-for-9 from the field for 13 points.
Heavyn Kind, averaging 15.1 points per game, was held to just eight to lead the Rockets.
Christopherson took the opportunity to look ahead.
“Auburndale’s a tough team,” she said. “They’re playing well. They closed out the second half strong with a good mix of inside and outside players.
“Defensively is where it will have to start for us. We need to make things tough on them. We need to get offense from several more players. We’ll need to top 50 points to get past Auburndale. It’s doable. so we’re excited.”
Tigers 50, Rockets 20 Spencer 6 14 – 20 Stratford 26 24 – 50 SPENCER (20): Jorie Meyer 0 2-2 2, Heavyn Kind 2 3-3 8, Aryiah Schuh 1 0-4 2, Amber Becker 2 0-0 4, Elexa Post 0 4-6 4. FG: 5-34. FT: 9-15. 3-pointers: 1-8 (Kind 1). Turnovers: 27. Record: 7-16. STRATFORD (50): Tanya Schillinger 1 0-0 3, Lauren Kraus 1 0-0 2, Makenna Leonhardt 1 1-6 3, Ella Heidmann 2 1-2 5, Breanna Ackley 8 2-2 21, Gracie Hauke 1 1-2 3, Emily Hughes 5 3-4 13. FG: 19-46. FT: 8-16. 3-pointers: 4-12 (Ackley 3, Schillinger 1). Turnovers: 15. Record: 10-13.
Steve Pilz writes for MarshfieldAreaSports.com, a contributor to Zaleski Sports.