HUDSON, Wis. -- Once the Hudson girls’ fought back from an eight point deficit to force overtime against Hortonville in their WIAA Division 1 sectional championship game Saturday, Feb. 20, head coach Jess Vadnais knew they were going to win.

“Because the momentum was there,” she said. “The crowd was there, the attitude of our girls, the energy, the leadership. Their will and their heart was what showed up during those moments.”

Vadnais was right. The Raiders went on to outscore the Polar Bears 9-4 in the extra session to qualify for the WIAA Girls State Basketball Tournament for the first time since Vadnais was a junior guard on the team in 2003.

Hudson will take a record of 22-0 into its state semifinal game against Franklin (15-5) this Saturday, Feb. 27, at 2:10 p.m. at Menomonee Nation Arena in Oshkosh. Top-seeded Germantown (27-1) and Verona (8-4) will begin the day in the first semifinal at 10:45 a.m. with the winners squaring off for the state championship Saturday night at 8:15 p.m.

Vadnais said she’s excited to be 22-0 and the No. 2 seed for the state tournament.

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“I don't know if we'll ever see this again as far as being 22-0,” she said. “Being undefeated heading into state is incredible. And I was really pleased with us getting that two seed. Germantown is a phenomenal team that's been ranked 1 or 2 all season and only has one loss. So I was really pleased to get that respect of the number two seed behind them.”

The Raiders moved to 22-0 by having to come from behind for the first time all season in Saturday’s sectional final against Hortonville. Hudson trailed 21-17 at the break before storming back from eight points down to tie the score, 46-46, on a fade-away put back by Audrey Hatfield with four seconds remaining. The Polar Bears missed a 3-point attempt at the buzzer and the Raiders had new life in overtime.

Hudson senior Grace Johnson shows off her piece of the net as the Raiders cut down the nets after their 55-50 victory over Hortonville in a Division 1 sectional final Saturday, Feb. 20, in Hudson. Johnson scored a team-high 15 points in the win. Photo courtesy of Bryant Lewis
Hudson senior Grace Johnson shows off her piece of the net as the Raiders cut down the nets after their 55-50 victory over Hortonville in a Division 1 sectional final Saturday, Feb. 20, in Hudson. Johnson scored a team-high 15 points in the win. Photo courtesy of Bryant Lewis

Grace Johnson hit a short jumper at the beginning of the extra session for Hudson but Hortonville converted a four-point play on a 3-pointer and a free throw with 2:33 left to take a 50-48 lead. But those were the last points the Polar Bears would get.

Johnson hit two free throws with just over two minutes left to tie the score and the Polar Bears worked the clock down to 1:09 before missing a free throw and Johnson grabbed the rebound, leading to a Lexi Jonas 3-pointer with 43 seconds left to put the Raiders up for good.

Johnson finished with 15 points, five rebounds, four assists and two steals in the win while Hatfield scored 14 points and accounted for 19 of the Raiders’ 32 rebounds. Livi Boily contributed nine points and Grace Lewis scored seven while Jonas had six.

Vadnais said the Raiders, who have won 21 of 22 games by single digits, showed a lot of heart despite trailing most of the game.

“We've been winning by these margins, like 23 point wins or whatever, but there was just something about these girls,” she said. “They have that internal fortitude or what some people refer to it as mental toughness. During that whole game there was no panic. There was no attitude shift. It was leadership, and it was together. And that's why we're going to state.”

The Raiders advanced to the sectional final with their 21st double-digit win of the season, 61-37, over Wisconsin Rapids in Thursday night’s sectional semifinal. Hudson led 33-7 at the break and never looked back.

“That's incredible in any game,” Vadnais said. “Especially in a sectional playoff game.”

Jonas led a balanced Hudson attack with 15 points while Hatfield had 12 and Lewis gave Hudson three players in double figures with 11.

Vadnais said she’s looking forward to a fun weekend in Oshkosh at the state tournament.

“Of course we want to win,” she said. “But everything now is just the cherry on top.”