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Plum City takes control and takes regional title in Division 5

Heather Von Holtum has an easy path to the basket between two Eleva-Strum defenders.3 / 4
Shelby Kannel takes the dribble to the basket.4 / 4

CENTRAL - John Pollock has been a part of many regional championship teams in his high school coaching career, but this Plum City girls squad has its own unique character.

"Perserverance. That's what they should be known for," Pollock, who is in his second year coaching the Blue Devils, said. "I've never had a team come back from a 1-7 start to win a regional title but these girls stuck together and got better and the end result is a championship."

The Plum City High School girls basketball team took control of their WIAA Division 5 regional tournament championship game against Eleva-Strum in the second half and easily beat the Cardinals on their home floor 58-40 for PC's first title since 1999.

The Blue Devils got off to a great start again, its offense clicking at its best in several weeks for a 20-6 lead in the second quarter. Eleva-Strum, 12-12 overall, put on a mini-rally before halftime to cut the lead to 20-11 and got as close as 20-13 to start the second half.

But a pair of Shelby Kannel field goals, a pair of unforced turnovers on the Cardinals' part and then four-point play for PC's Sarah Gilles (a foul off a made three-pointer), turned off any rally hopes for the home team.

"We were making shots and it spread to the whole team," PC's Heather Van Holtum said. "Shelby made some big shots and we had the momentum and confidence. It was awesome."

Both teams played close ballgames only 24 hours before, so such momentum going the Blue Devils' way broke Eleva-Strum mentally. The Devils outscored E-S 23-12 for a 43-23 advantage by the fourth quarter and did so without going into the bonus despite a tight man-to-man defense.

"Our kids physically are long and athletic and they're good fundamentally as well," Pollack said. "When it comes to defense that's a very effective combination."

Plum City was balanced in its scoring led by 11 points for Marah Boyer, 10 points for Cheyanne Catura, nine points for Kannel, eight for Van Holtum and seven points for Elaina Danzinger.

Many of the girls on the team were part of Plum City's regional title team in volleyball last fall and while this regional championship win in March was less dramatic than the volleyball title match over Cochrane-Fountain City in October, Van Holtum said it's no less emotional.

"Just the fact we're all together now makes it very special," Van Holtum said. "At times we didn't have coach on the sidelines or we had players out with injury or illness but now we've won this together and will finish with winning record after struggling for several seasons. I can't thank our fans, our parents and coaches for supporting us even when we weren't doing well and now we've done something everyone in Plum City can be proud of."

Indeed, PC will do no worse than being above .500 for the first time since 2009 regardless what happens in sectionals next weekend, a far cry from the combined 1-41 record PC compiled when this year's seniors (Kannel, Boyer, Van Holtum) compiled when they were freshman and sophomores.

The Blue Devils will play in the La Crosse Logan sectional semifinal Thursday at 7 p.m. in Neillsville and their opponent will be a doozy: the state's No. 2 ranked team in Division 5 Wisconsin Rapids Assumption, 24-1 overall. The other half of the sectional bracket pits No. 8 Seneca vs. Brookwood. The sectional finals are next Saturday in La Crosse at Logan High School.

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