HUDSON, Wis.-- Anything can happen in the playoffs, and Hudson girls’ basketball coach Jess Vadnais and her team will use that as motivation when they begin postseason play next week.
The Raiders earned the No. 4 seed in the 17-team WIAA Division 1, Section 1 bracket and will host No. 13 Wausau West in a regional semifinal at 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 28. A win would keep them at home for the regional final against either No. 5 Stevens Point or No. 12 DePere Saturday, Feb. 29.
Vadnais said she was pleased with Hudson’s No. 4 seed in a very tough sectional that includes defending state champion Bay Port and 2019 state qualifier Kimberly, and she feels the Raiders are up to the challenge.
“We will potentially have two home games, and that is huge for us,” she noted. “I was really happy for the girls and this program when we got that seed on Sunday. I hope we can take advantage, but we have a lot of work to do.”
The Raiders got a taste of what they’ll face in the playoffs with a 74-70 come-from-behind victory over a hot-shooting Superior team last Friday night at home. Junior Audrey Hatfield hit two free throws with six-tenths of a second remaining in regulation to tie the score, and senior Lauren Stolzman drained two go-ahead free throws in overtime as Hudson improved to 15-5 heading into its regular season finale at Rice Lake this Friday night, Feb. 21.
Superior hit three 3-pointers in the final 90 seconds of the first half to open up a 35-28 lead and finished with 11 3-pointers in the game as they clung to a two-point lead, 64-62, before Hudson executed a sideline play with six seconds left before Hatfield was fouled with 0.6 on the clock and knocked down both free throws to send the game to overtime. Stolzman hit two free throws to start the extra session and the Raiders went on to outscore the Spartans 10-6 to earn the victory.
“We had all of the momentum and were able to use that to get some defensive stops and get the win,” Vadnais said. “Our defense needed to be better than it was in the first half, and that was one of the main emphasis at halftime. We had better team defense and overall intensity in the second half. My girls just continued to battle.”
Stolzman finished with a season-high 30 points to lead all scorers and Hatfield finished with 17 points, 11 rebounds, seven assists and three blocked shots while Sophia Jonas contributed 16 points and a team-high eight assists.
“Sophia, Lauren, and Audrey came up huge for us on the offensive end,” Vadnais said. “Those three are quite the combo.
“I'm really lucky to be able to coach this team,” she added. They just never quit. They always believe that they can win any game that they step out onto the court. They are resilient, and they believe in each other.”
Vadnais, a player on Hudson’s 2002 state championship team, believes this year’s squad has what it takes to make another title run.
“This team could make a special run,” she said. “That's the type of team that I think I have. One game at a time is our thought process.”