By JASON JUNO
ATHENS, Wis. - Top-seed Athens ended No. 4 Hurley's season with a 54-38 victory in Friday's WIAA Division 4 regional semifinal.
Hurley finished the season at 16-6 with a strong effort in the semifinal, almost pulling within four points in the third quarter. But the Midgettes weren't able to generate offense off its defense and Athens was a tough 1 seed on its court with a tough defense of its own.
"The last two days we worked on playing aggressive defense, closing out, just being more aggressive, being in those passing lanes, being more effective on the defensive end," Hurley coach Melissa Oja said. "That was probably the most frustrating thing is that there were so many moments when we were standing. So many moments where someone would go by us and we were running behind. We were just out of position. It's not that people weren't working hard. They were working hard. I won't ever take that away from them.
"It's just at times, it was out of character, out of sorts with the decisions we were making. Just too patient. It was almost boring on the defensive side in the way we were standing. In a game like this you can definitely not play this style of D."
The opposite was true for Athens, which plays at home tonight against No. 3 Phillips in the regional final.
"The girls came out and played the aggressive defense they needed to," Athens coach Danielle Diedrich said. "They got ball pressure on and played a good team defense."
Even so, the Midgettes appeared to be in business early in the third quarter.
After Athens pulled ahead by double digits, 26-16, to start the half, Hurley converted on back-to-back baskets as Natalie Moon created opportunities on the defensive end. Gabby Pecotte made both shots to pull Hurley within 26-20. Moon made another steal, but a short shot by Beka Harrington came oh-so-close to falling.
That would have brought Hurley within four points.
Instead, Athens went on a 8-3 run to end the third quarter and led 34-23.
A putback by Kirkie Pecotte to start the fourth quarter got Hurley within single digits again, but it was for the last time as Athens held onto the lead despite a shaky fourth quarter at the free throw line.
The Midgettes had 27 turnovers, didn't rebound well and struggled to score. The Midgettes weren't able to get open looks because of bad passes, Oja said. The rebounding and some of the offensive struggles goes back to a defense that is known for its scrappiness.
"In the first quarter, we had two rebounds," Oja said. "Part of that is on the defensive end, standing, not closing out, not being aggressive; we're not going to get rebounds."
The Midgettes lose seniors Kayla Subert and Beka Harrington.
"These two girls are two that have developed into really nice basketball players, both in completely different aspects," Oja said. "It's sad because you develop a friendship, you develop a bond. It's never easy to see them go. Both girls want to play college ball, Beka at Vermilion. Kayla wants to play at Gogebic."
Makayla Wolfe led Hurley with 12 points. She was the only Midgette in double figures.
"First half, Britt Czarnecki , she was definitely a big key to why we were close," Oja said. "She came off that bench ready to play. She worked hard. Got a lot of boards for us. Natalie came prepared. Natalie played her heart out and was super, super aggressive on all ends of the floor. There were moments she was running the transition game from the post position."
Vanessa Frahm led Athens with 10 points.
Hurley - Gabby Pecotte 6, Natalie Moon 4, Brittany Czarnecki 7, Kayla Subert 3, Makayla Wolfe 12, Kirkie Pecotte 4, Ashley Clement 2. FTs: 7-13. Fouls: 21. Fouled out: Wolfe, Moon. 3-pointers: Wolfe 2, Czarnecki 1.
Athens - Emily Czech 3, Vanessa Frahm 10, Megan Frahm 4, Kyncaide Diedrich 6, Savannah Janke 4, Abby Schreiner 16, Chelsea Tessmer 4, Casie Hieronimous 7. FTs: 15-27. Fouls: 13. Fouled out: None. 3-pointers: Czech 1.
Athens 14 24 34 54
Hurley 8 16 23 38