The Somerset and St. Croix Central girls kept their basketball seasons alive on Tuesday with wins in the opening round of the WIAA Division 3 playoffs.
Somerset, the sixth seed, rained down 3-pointers on Spooner in a 69-25 win over the Rails. Somerset will play at third seed Bloomer at 7 p.m. Friday.
Central pulled off an upset Tuesday. The Panthers were seeded tenth, but they went to seventh seed Hayward and they weathered the Hurricanes, winning 35-29. Central advances to Friday’s action at second seed Northwestern.
The Spartans took whatever Spooner gave them on Tuesday and it was usually open looks from around the arc. Junior Rachel Gaikowski ignited the Somerset offense by hitting a pair of threes for the Spartans’ first points and she added another a few minutes later. Her marksmanship led the Spartans in building an 18-5 lead. Taylor Paulson added a trio of threes later in the half and Gaikowski added another as the Spartans built a 36-10 lead by halftime.
The win is Somerset’s 11th of the season against 12 losses. The Spartans have been leaning heavily on their scoring from the paint in recent games. The close-range shots weren’t falling, but they weren’t needed with the uncanny accuracy the Spartans showed from the arc.
Gaikowski finished with five threes, Paulson and Sophie Rivard both sank three and Liv Hoff hit one. Gaikowski led the Spartans with 15 points, Paulson scored 13, Heather Gaikowski 12 and Dani Schachtner 11.
Somerset coach Cory Lindenberg said Spooner tried five different defenses during the game.
“The girls did a good job of getting into the appropriate action and taking what was available,” Lindenberg said in crediting the girls’ ability to adapt quickly.
Lindenberg said the Spartans didn’t scout Spooner. He said the team decided to concentrate on what they do best and the approach will largely be the same for Friday’s game at Bloomer.
“We’re going to focus on what we run. You want Taylor, Rachel, Liv and (MyKenzie) Leccia in their spots. That promotes more confidence shooting,” Lindenberg said.
St. Croix Central win
For the first time this season, the Panthers are riding a winning streak. After ending the regular season with a win at Ellsworth, the Panthers relied on their defense to decide the game at Hayward.
Central’s girls knew Hayward would play a deliberate style and the Panthers were prepared to play that style better.
“We dared them to shoot over us,” said Central coach Riley Walz. “We played really great defense.”
Both teams stayed with zone defenses. Central held a 17-14 lead at halftime. Central’s defense was suffocating to start the second half, with the Panthers going on a 13-1 run to lead 30-15. The lead remained in double figures until the final minute, when Hayward hit a couple 3-pointers to draw within six.
Hayward played a 2-3 zone, but the Panthers attacked it and were successful getting the ball inside. Senior Kolbi Juen led the Panthers with 13 points, all coming from the paint. The same is true of the 10 points scored by sophomore Sydney Burgess. Hayward’s zone was designed to stop Central’s perimeter shooting. Morgan Siler was held to six points, but she led the Panthers in assists.
The Panthers, now 3-20, faced Northwestern earlier this season, losing 46-37. Northwestern is 19-3, but the Panthers are feeling a momentum they haven’t experienced all season.
“It’s one game at a time and we’re 1-0 right now,” Walz said of the playoffs. “We lost by nine to Northwestern at the Christmas break, but we’ve gotten a lot better since then.”