Shawano girls continue to roll with another big win

Dustin Riese

The Shawano girls kicked off the second half of their season with a trip to Bay Conference rival Seymour on Jan. 4 and returned home with another win.

Winners of four of their last five entering the game, the Hawks (12-3) have been on quite a run this season and appear set to challenge for the Bay Conference crown.

It was more of the same as the dynamic duo of Leah Nordin and Abby Bystol led the way on offense, while the defense made life miserable for the opposition. The defense is what stood out in this one as the Hawks continued to go about their business with another big 51-31 victory.

“We have really started to get on a nice run and play some great basketball the past few weeks,” coach Ryan Koenig said. “Tonight, I thought we played hard and really good defensively all night. Offense started out slow, but the second half did a better job.”

Things didn’t go as planned for the Hawks in the early going as Salem Boyd picked up four quick points for the Thunder and helped Seymour race out to an early 6-0 lead. That was a lead they would hold for nearly five minutes as the Shawano offense appeared out of sync early on.

All it took was a triple from Bystol to get the offense rolling. She and Nordin combined to score the next nine points as Shawano used its 9-0 run to grab the lead for good 9-6.

“Our spacing and movement was not good to start, and I thought halfway through the first half we got back to normal,” Koenig said. “Once that happened, we started to play our game, and we started hitting our shots more consistently.”

That 9-0 run may have given the Hawks the lead, but they were just getting started as the Thunder offense did next to nothing the rest of the first half. Add that to Bystol and Nordin having their way on the inside, and opening things up for Trinity Popelka and Ella Stuber from deep, it was the Hawks ending the first half on a 24-6 run to double up the Thunder 24-12 at the break.

As expected, the Hawks continued to keep the pressure on to begin the second half with Popelka opening the scoring, while Nordin was starting to show her range from deep with a triple to push the lead to 29-15. Another tough bucket by Nordin gave the Hawks a 31-16 advantage, with Popelka and Bystol getting in on the fun to push the lead up to 37-17.

Fully in control as they were most of the night, the Shawano defense continued to put the clamps down, forcing the hosts into tough situations. That resulted in several costly turnovers leading to a pair of Nordin buckets as Shawano could do no wrong and pushed their lead to 41-17, their biggest of the night.

“Defense is our bread and butter, and tonight it was the difference in the game,” Koenig said. “I just loved our focus and communication from everyone, and we need to continue that the rest of the way.”

In desperate need of a late game spark, Keira VandeHei did her best by providing four quick points for the Thunder with Natalea Hill getting involved late to provide most of the Seymour offense down the stretch. At one point, it was starting to feel as if the Thunder would make a late-game push to try and make things interesting, but Nordin had other plans as she continued to have her way with the Thunder defense to push the lead back up to 22.

It was at this point in the game when the Hawks began to empty their bench, and it came after Braylyn Babino connected for a corner triple. Popelka and Rylee Trochil closed out the scoring for the Hawks.