The Somerset girls’ basketball team has struck on a plan that the Spartans hope will carry them deep into the WIAA Division 3 playoffs.
The Spartans finished the regular season on Thursday with a 47-41 win at Baldwin-Woodville. The win puts the Spartans in fourth place in the final Middle Border Conference standings with a 7-7 record. The Spartans head into the WIAA playoffs with a 10-12 overall record.
Somerset begins the WIAA playoffs on Tuesday, Feb. 25 by hosting Spooner. Somerset is the sixth seed in the regional bracket and Spooner is the 11th seed.
In Thursday’s win, the Spartans showed a combination that could make them effective at both ends of the court in the playoffs. It started on defense, where the Spartans switched between zone defenses in Thursday’s win. The Spartans have the height and quickness where they can defend the paint and the perimeter by using a zone coverage. The Spartans limited Baldwin-Woodville to 15 points in the second half on Thursday. Somerset coach Cory Lindenberg said he thought it was the first time this season that the Spartans played a full half at that high a level of defensive quality.
Somerset trailed 26-22 at halftime in Thursday’s game. That’s when the Spartans made the full commitment to getting the ball to post players Dani Schachtner and Heather Gaikowski. They each scored 10 points in the second half. Midway through the second half, they scored all the points in a 10-0 rally where the Spartans pulled ahead for good.
“Dani and Heather killed them down low,” said Lindenberg.
Schachtner has elevated her play where she’s playing as well as any of the top post players in the MBC. She made 7-11 shots from the field and 6-7 free throws, finishing with 20 points. She also delivered 13 rebounds and eight blocked shots. Gaikowski supplied seven rebounds.
Taylor Paulson was the outside threat that balanced Somerset’s post scoring. Paulson scored 12 points, all on 3-pointers.
Rachel Gaikowski played an excellent team game for the Spartans. Her contributions included nine rebounds, five steals and four assists.
The Spartans were coming off a painful loss against St. Croix Falls, the top seed in the region. The Saints beat the Spartans in Somerset last Tuesday, 72-35.
For the first 10 minutes, the Spartans battled evenly with the Saints, trailing 16-15. Then the roof caved in. By halftime, the Spartans were facing a 33-15 deficit.
“Against a team like that, small mistakes hurt you,” Lindenberg said. “We were getting the looks we wanted. We just weren’t converting them.”
The Saints, who are 21-1, played a 1-3-1 zone defense. Lindenberg said that game showed how the Spartans need to attack zones, which is what they’ll likely see from Spooner on Tuesday.
Rachel Gaikowski led the Spartans with seven points against the Saints. Schachtner finished with six points and 20 rebounds.