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The No. 11-seeded Spring Valley Cardinals claimed a 63-59 victory in the first round of the 2019 WIAA Division 4 girls' basketball regionals and upset their hosts, the No. 6-seeded Cochrane-Fountain City Pirates. The Cardinals (5-15) will continue their playoff run on Friday, Feb. 22, when they travel to Regis High School to take on the No. 3 Ramblers (17-5) who received a bye in the first round of regionals. The opening night of playoffs wasn't as enjoyable for the Ellsworth Panthers and Elmwood/Plum City Wolves.
No basketball recap is complete without an inclusion of the game's leading scorer. Points-per-game averages tend to carry the most weight in Most Valuable Player considerations. It's typical for youngster to latch onto scoring greats as they yell "KOBE" while tossing crumpled up pieces of paper into garbage cans, but it's rare to find rookie basketball fans who claim defensive stars as their favorite players. While offensive talent is continually held with high regard, what's the incentive for amateur basketball players to take pride in their defensive skills?
The Prescott Cardinals saw an adverse December in which they recorded three of their four losses on the season. The Cardinals dropped a 71-70 loss to the St. Croix Central Panthers on, Jan. 8, but since then, their record has been flawless. The Cardinals (16-4, 9-3) completed a perfect 4-0 week at the completion of the second full week in February and were rewarded with a No. 1 seed in the WIAA Division 3 Sectional 1 playoff seedings.
Ellsworth senior co-captain Erik Lange compared his team's gameless first full week of February to the National Basketball Association's All-Star break. "It kind of gets you out of your groove, but it's also kind of like the All-Star break in the NBA," Lange said. "You get a little refresher and you get to work on yourself. Whether you're on a winning streak or a losing streak, I feel like the playing field just evens out. As much as it sucked to not play games, it was kind of nice to regroup and work on ourselves and the team as a whole."
Ten Pierce County wrestlers qualified for the 76th Annual WIAA Individual Wrestling Championship Tournament on Saturday, Feb. 16, by placing third or better in their sectional brackets. Ellsworth, Prescott and Spring Valley/Elmwood all claimed a sectional champion at their designated state-qualifying tournaments. The Ellsworth Panthers qualified eight wrestlers for the WIAA Division 2 Individual Wrestling Championship Tournament, including 132-pound champion Charlie Stuhl. Stuhl won his Division 2 Sectional A bracket by defeating Medford's Dane Higgins by a 15-0 technical fall.
The Prescott Cardinals were prepared to earn a share of the 2018-19 Middle Border Conference title on Thursday, Feb. 14, but instead left Osceola with their third loss of the season and no excuses. "I don't have any excuses; we just didn't play," Prescott's head coach Ron Murphy said. "They came in and played hard, we shot the ball poorly and we didn't rebound." Osceola (10-11, 7-7) defeated the Cardinals (18-3, 12-2) by a 55-52 margin after Prescott blew four chances to tie things up in the final 21 seconds of the game.
The Prescott Cardinals saw an adverse December in which they recorded three of their four losses on the season. The Cardinals dropped a 71-70 loss to the St. Croix Central Panthers on Tuesday, Jan. 8, but since then, their record has been flawless. Prescott tacked on another win to its nine-game win streak on Friday, Feb. 15, by defeating the visiting Baldwin-Woodville Blackhawks by a 72-59 margin.
After showing promise in a 10-point loss to the Prescott Cardinals on Monday, Feb. 11, the Ellsworth Panthers let a win against a lesser opponent slip away from them in their final regular season game before regionals. Somerset held a 21-18 first-half lead, and despite several lead changes in the second half, were able to prevail over the Panthers on Senior Night in Ellsworth by claiming a 54-50 win on Thursday, Feb. 14.
History repeated itself on Thursday, Feb. 14, when the Elmwood/Plum City Wolves were thumped by the Spring Valley Cardinals' stellar team defense once again. After losing 59-23 to the Cardinals (12-6, 10-2) in Elmwood on Thursday, Jan. 10, the Wolves (6-12, 2-9) managed to hold the hosting Cardinals to 49 points but struggled to find their offense in their 22-point night, which was their lowest-scoring game of the season.
When Shaughn Laehn got word of the Elmwood/Plum City girls' basketball team's WIAA Division 5 regionals seeding and first-round opponent, he shared a bit of history with his players. Back when Laehn's daughters were in school, the No. 8-seeded Alma/Pepin Eagles took the No. 1-seeded Eleva-Strum Cardinals to overtime after having lost to the Eagles by 20 in during the regular season. "Those girls kind of went at it like a-we've-got-nothing-to-lose kind of a deal," Laehn said. "The pressure was really off us."