WATERTOWN — Junior point guard Julianna Wagner tied a career-high with 27 points, going 10-for-10 at the free throw line, and junior wing Jade Pitta helped key a critical run, adding 14 points, as the Lake Mills girls basketball team defeated host Watertown Luther Prep, 67-58, in a Capitol North game on Friday.
Wagner made five of the team’s 13 3-pointers and Pitta scored seven points, including two 3-pointers, during a crucial 9-0 L-Cat run that spanned both halves. AP Division 3 third-ranked Lake Mills (17-1, 6-0 Capitol North) now holds a two-game lead in league play over Luther Prep and has won six games in a row.
The Phoenix (9-4, 4-2) used a 23 zone throughout, looking to take away driving lanes and opportunities for posts on the block.
“In the first half we didn’t execute our zone offense very well,” Lake Mills girls basketball coach Brandon Siska said. “We need to do a better job of hitting the short corner and high post, more movement. We need some more in and out 3s and paint touches. I thought we settled for too many 3s especially in the first half and we did a better job in the second half.
“I thought Prep had a good gameplan, they struggled going man against us the first time. We’ve had a few teams do that and try to slow us down.
“We knew going into this, we were up one game (in the standings), we were going to get their best shot. They always play really well at home and are a team that can shoot it. (Grace) Schmidt is a very good ballplayer and awesome rebounder. We didn’t execute boxing her out. We need to a better job of that. I thought she played a little tougher than we did tonight. It’s a huge road win, we are 6-0 now with a 2-game lead with four games left. Happy we found a way to win. They shot the lights out of it and we still found a way to win on the road.”
Luther Prep lost the first meeting of the season 87-52 on Dec. 13, 2019. This time, it was close the entire way.
“We focused on stopping Wagner on the drive and (McClain) Mahone and (Vivian) Guerrero down on the block,” Luther Prep girls basketball coach Mark Schroeder said. “We said ‘we’ll try to make you beat us from the outside’ and they did. I was happy the way the defense played especially in the first half. We hung with them really well. They were with them every step, just couldn’t quite find a way to get over the hump.”
Phoenix senior wing Sadie Schultz hit a 3-pointer and then dished to junior guard Grace Kieselhorst for another 3, cutting the lead to 51-47 with 5 minutes, 30 seconds left. Pitta then made an underhand layup and Guerrero, a junior center, scored inside, extending the edge back to seven. Junior guard Taylor Roughen forced a turnover in the backcourt and Pitta scored in the paint to make it a 9-point game with 3:15 to go.
Junior forward Lauren Paulsen and senior guard Ana Glisper each made 3s down the stretch, but the margin never dipped below six.
Wagner made eight free throws in the last two minutes to seal it.
“She’s an 80-plus percent free throw shooter and has been in a lot of big ball games at this point where she has to shoot free throws when it is a 1- or 2-point game,” Siska said. “I’m confident she is going to knock them down.”
Glisper and Schmidt, the conference’s leading scorer at 22.6 points per game, each finished with 17.
“You just always have to account for her,” Schroeder said of Schmidt. “She did an excellent job backside rebounding on defense. She did a good job attacking the rack and getting good shots up. She got offensive rebounds and scores. I couldn’t ask for more from her. Ana did an excellent job of attacking. Sadie hit from the outside a couple times. We just did not get enough of those (3-pointers).”
“She was supposed to be getting double teams,” Siska added. “We let her get too many post touches. I thought in the second half we did a better job of doubling over and getting the ball out of her hands. When shots went up, we needed to box her out and we didn’t do that until the late in the game. Vivian in those last few minutes kind of figured it out and started boxing her out, I thought that made a difference in the game.”
Lake Mills’ press was effective at times, helping build a lead during the middle stretches of the game.
“We were able to force some turnovers there,” Siska said. “They did a better job of handling the press this time. I thought Schmidt did a good job running the point for them tonight even though that isn’t her primary position. She did a good job taking care of the basketball.”
Wagner scored on a driving layup as time expired in the first half to make it 29-23, the team’s largest lead of the first half.
Pitta then hit two 3-pointers in the first two minutes of the second half to cap a 12-2 spurt that made it 35-23, encapsulating each half.
Luther Prep answered with an 8-2 run that included three assists by Schmidt, who found Glisper in transition twice and Schultz from beyond the arc.
Junior forward Hannah Lamke, who scored nine points, made a 3 on an assist by Wagner. A minute later, Wagner added a 3-pointer of her own, increasing the lead to 44-37 with 9:00 left.
Glisper and Schmidt both had layups sandwiched between a Pitta steal that led to a layin for Roughen, who scored seven points. Wagner hit a 3 on an assist from Mahone, a sophomore forward, before scoring inside, making it a 10-point game at the 6-minute mark.
Wagner scored 16 points in the second half and Pitta had 10 after the break.
Schultz registered 10 points and Paulsen tallied eight.
The Phoenix lay at Palmyra-Eagle tonight. The L-Cats play Lakeside Lutheran at home on Thursday at 7:30 p.m.
LAKE MILLS 67,
WATERTOWN LUTHER PREP 58
Lake Mills 29 38 — 67
Luther Prep 23 35 — 58
Lake Mills (fg fta-ftm pts) — Roughen 3 0-0 7, Wagner 6 10-10 27, Pitta 5 1-2 14, Guerrero 2 0-1 4, Lamke 3 0-0 9, Mahone 1 1-2 4, Vesperman 1 0-0 2. Totals 21 12-15 67.
Luther Prep — Paulsen 3 1-2 8, Glisper 7 3-4 17, Bridgemen 1 0-0 3, G. Kieselhorst 1 0-0 3, Schmidt 7 3-7 17, Schultz 4 0-0 10. Totals 23 7-13 58.
3-point goals — LM, Wagner 5, Pitta 3, Lamke 3, Roughen 1, Mahone 1; LP (Schultz 2, Paulsen, Bridgemen, G. Kieselhorst) 5. Total fouls — LM 13, LP 16.