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Girls basketball: Wildcats keep clawing

Wildcat sophomore Taylor Weick (12) puts up a shot between two Chippewa Falls defenders in the first half of the Cats' 72-60 loss to the Cardinals Saturday night, Jan. 6, at UW-River Falls Don Page Arena. Bob Burrows / RiverTown Multimedia 1 / 2
Wildcat junior Bailey Reardon (23) gets mugged as she pulls down a rebound in the first half of the Cats' 72-60 loss to Big Rivers Conference leader Chippewa Falls in a game played at UW-River Falls Don Page Arena Saturday night, Jan. 5. Bob Burrows / RiverTown Multimedia 2 / 2

Don't let the Wildcat girls basketball team's 4-9 record fool you.

That's the message the Cats sent after giving Big Rivers Conference leading Chippewa Falls all it could handle in a game that was a lot closer than the 72-60 final score indicated last Saturday on Rick Bowen Court at UW-River Falls Don Page Arena.

The Wildcats went toe-to-toe with the Cardinals (7-4 overall, 5-0 BRC) before the Cardinals used a 10-0 second half run to earn the 12-point win.

The loss came four nights after the Cats kicked off the new year with a 73-52 nonconference victory on the road at Ellsworth.

Wildcat coach Ian Sticht said both games showed how the Cats are improving, both offensively and defensively, as the season progresses.

"Things that do not always show up in the stat line—movement away from the ball, our defensive matchups when they subbed—we are getting much better at these," he said.

After looking a little rusty early in their first game in 12 days Tuesday, Jan. 2, at Ellsworth, the Wildcats outscored the Panthers by 17 points in the second half to post a 73-52 victory, their second-highest point total of the season.

"I thought we handled ourselves pretty well for coming off our Christmas break," Sticht said. "Ellsworth threw some things at us defensively that we haven't worked on very much and I thought we did a good job adjusting in the second half."

The Cats got some easy transition baskets early to build a 36-31 halftime lead and kept feeding sophomore guard Kylie Strop on the fast break in the second half, leading to Strop finishing with a game-high 26 points.

Junior Bailey Reardon dominated both ends of the floor, finishing with 21 points, 14 rebounds, five assists and four steals, while sophomore Maddi Kealy chipped in with seven points and six rebounds and junior Faith Mader and sophomore Taylor Weick had six points and four assists each.

"Our rebounders did a great job of getting the ball up the floor to Kylie," Sticht said. "And Bailey had a monster game."

Saturday, in a home game played at UWRF's brand new Page Arena at Falcon Center, the Wildcats matched Chippewa Falls basket for basket in a first half that ended with the Cardinals clinging to a 40-35 lead. But Chippewa Falls opened the second half with a 10-0 run that helped carry them to the 12-point victory.

"We made some runs in the second half after going about four minutes without scoring to start the half, but credit them as they were able to respond," Sticht said. "There is a reason they haven't lost a conference game yet."

Strop finished with 21 points and nine rebounds while Kealy matched her with 21 points while grabbing six boards.

"Maddi Kealy had her best game of the year offensively," Sticht said. "She did a great job finishing around the basket."

Reardon had 10 points and eight rebounds in the loss and Weick scored five points while sophomore Abby Doerre contributed a three-pointer.

The Wildcats are off this week before returning to nonconference action at home against Prescott Tuesday, Jan. 16, at 7:15 p.m. They'll take a 1-5 BRC record into a conference game on the road Friday, Jan. 19, at Eau Claire North.

Bob Burrows
Bob Burrows has been sports editor at the River Falls Journal since 1996 and at the Hudson Star-Observer since 2009. Prior to joining the Journal, Burrows served as sports editor with Ledger Publications in Balsam Lake, Wis. A native of Bayonne, N.J. and a U.S. Navy veteran, Burrows attended Marquette University before completing his studies at UW-River Falls in 1992.
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