Bonduel girls basketball team hangs tough but falls to St. Mary

Dustin Riese

Any time you test yourselves in non-conference play, it can be used as a benchmark to gauge where your team is at as you prepare for the postseason later on. When it comes to the Bonduel Bears girls basketball team, not only were they put to test Nov. 16, but they passed that test with flying colors to prove they are a very good team.

Squaring off against the No. 8 ranked St. Mary Catholic Zephyrs on the road is no easy feat, but it was a feat the Bears didn’t shy away from as they gave SMC their best shot. No matter the deficit, the Bears continued to battle back and even held the lead early in the second half. They continued to exchange blows throughout the second half, trailing by two late until the Zephyrs pulled away down the stretch to pick up the 62-53 win.

“I couldn’t be happier with our effort from start to finish tonight,” head coach Jerry Reinke said. “That is a great team over there that was within one possession of state a season ago. They have the talent to get back to that point again this season, and we managed to go bucket for bucket with them most of the night. That just shows you the potential our group has as we didn’t back down from this challenge.”

In the early stages of the first half, it was the Zephyrs’ defense that set the tone as the constant full court pressure made things uncomfortable for the Bears’ offense, resulting in several turnovers. That helped give Audrey Norville and Emily Vogel several easy buckets as the Bears quickly found themselves in an 8-2 deficit. Even with Audrey Weier and her team-leading 15 points, mixed with Tatum Sporisky picking up a couple of buckets shortly after, the Zephyrs’ defense continued to be an issue as the Bears still trailed by six.

It was the midway point of the first half when the Bonduel defense started to sink their teeth as they put the clamps down on the Zephyrs and held them scoreless for several minutes. That allowed for the Bonduel offense to chip away with Hailey Zernicke (10 points) finding ways to get inside and Hailee Thompson (14 points) knocking down some jumpers from deep. Throw in an Ashlyn Kurey runner, and the Bears battled back to claim a 16-15 lead.

Unfortunately for Bonduel, their lead didn’t last long as a pair of triples from Norville sparked an 8-0 SMC run and pushed their lead to the largest of the game thus far, 23-16. Not to be out done, Bonduel continued to take the Zephyrs’ best shots only to bounce back as the size of Weier on the inside mixed with the outside touch of Thompson was an issue as Bonduel closed out the first half on an 11-4 run to pull even 27-27.

“Early in the game, we were playing a little faster than we’d like against their pressure,” Reinke said. “The few times we used our press break, we were successful, which led to some easy buckets and started to get us in a more of an offensive rhythm.”

In what was suddenly a ball game to begin the second half a quick strike from Vogel put the Zephyrs back in front only to have Weier answer with four straight to give Bonduel their second lead of the game. Weier continued to do her thing down low in the early stages of the second half, which helped open things up for Zernicke and others as the Bears continued to battle and held a 35-34 lead.

That was the last lead of the night for Bonduel with Norville knocking down another triple to put SMC back in front before Nolie Anderson gave SMC the lead for good.

Like in the first half, whenever it seemed as if SMC was about to pull away, it was the Bonduel defense bouncing back as they refused to go down without a fight. Ella Hischke kept the Bears within striking distance, 44-42.

“Defensively, we played very well for about the first 25 minutes, but they beat us up in the paint in the second half,” Reinke said. “They are a very physical team. and they showed that throughout the game, especially in the second half. and took advantage of that.”

With Vogel pushing the Zephyrs lead back up to four, Juliana Jacobs and Thompson took it upon themselves to rattle off four quick points to pull the Bears even yet again 48-48 with the fourth quarter winding down.

That was as close as the Bears would get the rest of the way, with Lauren Ripley knocking down a triple to put the Zephyrs back in front for good and Vogel driving the lane to push the lead back to five. Things would only get worse from there as the Zephyrs tightened up defensively when they needed to and iced the game from the free throw line.

“Although we would’ve liked the win, this was a great test for us early in the season,” Reinke said. “We have some things to work on, but we certainly did some good things we can build on.”